Human Vulnerability, Culture As Destiny, State Formation In A Border Province: Key questions in Manipur today

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By Amar Yumnam

Any development in any society today has to be competitive and meaningfully address the issues of individuals and households in that society. Further all the interventions in the society has to be oriented towards meeting the needs for generating epistemic communities in the society so that the clusters of knowledge creation in the society become more wide-spread and deep-rooted. Still further, every society requires the evolution from a framework of culture as destiny to an environment where culture becomes the foundation for innovation and emergence of entrepreneurs. Moreover, any border region in a country has to address the usual deficiency in public order and infrastructure for undertaking activities. Another critical element in societies still trying to develop is the inevitability of addressing the issue of establishing appropriate political and economic institutions for facilitating development. Here the global lesson in this has been one where the right economic institutions have been more rewarding within a shorter period and even facilitating the evolution of appropriate political institutions. Now all these are relevant as well as urgent questions to be attended to in the context of Manipur.

The urgency and the imperative for addressing these issues are all the more in the context of evolving global thinking in both the immediate neighbouring countries and the larger global context. As regards the neighbouring countries, one very recent report for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is very significant. This Report prepared by the Asian Development Bank Institute is titled as “ASEAN 2030: Toward a Borderless Economic Community”. It spells out strategies for making ASEAN “truly borderless economic community” by 2030 in her own unique way different from “the highly bureaucratic organisation or a structure” like the European Union. At the global level, the latest report of the United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2014_Suataining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, has drawn the international attention on imperatives to enhance the range of choices and the need to protect the capabilities of individuals to face any critical crisis.

Manipur today demands the unified attention of the government for establishing a knowledge society where new thinking is facilitated and new knowledge is increasingly applied to the solution of problems; it goes much beyond the public bluff of the Chief Minister scolding a Minister. One critical need of Manipur today is the engagement of the government in evolving and implementing policies for reducing the deficiency in public order and reach of governance. This goes much beyond the “improvement” of the highway from Keishampat to Malom. There is the inevitable need to establish in right earnest a framework for provision of inclusive public goods for the entire territory and people of Manipur; this we have been missing for an unwarrantedly long period of time. This need is much more imperative than the requirements of the Sangai Festivals which have so far been only melas for clustered sale of items instead of the needed temporary cluster of knowledge and technology as any such contemporary fair should be. This deficiency in thinking by the government is still painfully salient, and with the consequence of poverty of infrastructure for activities far and wide. The rising vulnerability of the people to a shock, and increasing environmental degradation to recover from the shocks are issues to be responded to with policies sooner than later.

With the world increasingly based on knowledge for functioning and interaction, Manipur can no longer afford to lag behind in evolving an own system of knowledge creation. This would entail establishing a contextual system of interaction for knowledge creation within and without. Given the diversity in ethnic composition and geography in Manipur, application of mind and evolution of policies for this are long overdue in Manipur. Instead of a system of knowledge creation, we now experience an unhealthy competition in politicking for exclusivity among the various ethnicities.

One thing mentioned more often than not by all in Manipur is the richness of culture. But all these amount to articulating, practising and emphasising culture as destiny instead of as a dynamic force for social advancement. Culture as destiny is prohibitive of emergence of new ideas, entrepreneurs, and an atmosphere of knowledge creation relevant for building capabilities for global competition. The provincial government has not applied it mind yet to this aspect of culture as foundation for social dynamics rather than as destiny. This has been the dominant characteristic of collective articulation and functioning as well. This is why the “richness” of culture has not led to the speeding up of development and enhancement of technology upgradation in functionings.

This takes us to the related question of vulnerability of the people of Manipur to any shock or disaster. In the olden times, there were societal security in both the mountains and the valley such that any temporary shock of an individual would be taken care of by the society. Now this security has disappeared in both the regions. In other words, an individual has to face any shock with her own capability today. This calls for the government to see to it that a framework is functional and alive in the society where the range of choices available to an individual is increasingly widened, and the capabilities of individuals are allowed to become progressively rise.

All these lead to the imperative to apply devoted mind and evolve policies with a sense of urgency for evolving appropriate economic and political institutions for taking Manipur to the level where she can join the unfolding globalising process with her heads held high.

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