Hunger Marchers’ Day and its Discontents

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Artificial scarcity of rice created by traders in the State triggered intense agitation by students 49 years ago. The day of August 27, 1965 saw the martyrdom of four students, who took part in the agitation. Every year, the All Manipur Students’ Union has been observing the day as the ‘Chaklam Khongchat Numit’. Artificial scarcity of rice was also the primary reason that triggered the historic 2ndNupilal of 1939 in the State. Today, abject hunger among the population of the State is not something very conspicuous. This rather happy state of affairs is not because food productivity has increased in the State over the years, notwithstanding farmers in the State using high yielding variety seeds for cultivation of rice and other food grains. Dependency on fertilizers has, at the same time, increased at an alarming rate. And every year, there is artificial scarcity of fertilizers, mostly created by section of unscrupulous traders, working hand in glove with various ‘social workers’. As if on cue, the elected representatives play the part of Good Samaritan, to the fertilizer-hungry farmers in these times of fertilizer famine. Even with the changes brought forth by modern agricultural practices, food-grain production in the state has never been able to meet its requirement. Self-sufficiency is still a mirage to the people of Manipur. The annual ‘Chaklam Khongchat’ seems to be addressing the issue of self-sufficiency, unfortunately, only at a superficial level. There could be exigencies of other pressing issues, which have made this specific superficiality to come to pass. Still, an increasing dependency on other States for food-grain and other essential commodities can no longer be overlooked. This dependency becomes stark and nakedly evident during economic blockades. Artificial scarcity of fuel can make people stand for hours in front of oil pumps for just a few liters of Petrol or Diesel. Prices of essential commodities would bear hard on the common people. ‘Chaklam Khongchat, today, is observed, every year, with the backdrop of the reality that petty politics on State highways can make people feel starved, anytime, at the drop of a hat. This is not to suggest that the observation should be used as a magic wand to wipe away all our insufficiencies with a single stroke. Rather, this is to emphasize that August 27 should be a day for critical scrutiny of the State’s productivity vis-à-vis its requirement and the way forward, without sidelining other issues.
During this year’s observation, a former president of the Union had drawn attention on the habit of splintering organisations, which impairs any mass movement in the State. Indeed, this has been an issue which has plagued most social movements, leaving room for public mistrust towards social organisations. May be, we have a case of too many generals and not enough army. Or, is it in our DNA, wherein splintering nature has been coded to give expression to this perversity. Once, a question was raised to a Western Classical musician whether there is any possibility of Manipur having orchestral concert of local musicians. The musician was skeptical, not because there is lack of talent. Western musical instruments are costly, yet they can be procured. The musician explained that Western Classical music gives utmost importance to the idea of harmony. In a concert, an ensemble of musical instruments performs what is asked of them, but with the intent to contribute to the harmony instead of disrupting it. The string instruments cannot overplay over the brass instruments, the same rule has to be followed by the wind instruments and the percussions as well. All in all, harmony has to be maintained. The musician said we have a critical deficit in this area. May be he is not wrong.

Leader Writer: Senate Kh

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