Practically every commentator of politics of Manipur must have said or written about this. Indeed practically every lay debater in the morning tea stalls in Imphal as well as on the social media would have had something to say on the matter too. It is also unlikely those whose ears the recommendations from these discussions were meant for have not heard it. Yet nothing has been done to address the issue. We refer to the lack of coordination between various wings of the Government of Manipur, especially those whose activities have a direct and visible bearing on immediate public welfare and public convenience. The ugly evidences for this is available on the roads of Imphal on any given day in the form of literal trenches dug across the roads by individual consumers of municipal water to access main PHED water supply pipelines on the other sides of the roads. Why cannot these engineering departments of the government draw up a joint blueprint of the city and areas where their works are likely to come into conflict or else be an impediment of each other, and reconcile these issues before embarking on their individual responsibilities? At the moment, it does seem, what the left hand of the government does, the right hand does not know. So if the PWD goes ahead and lays a road one day, it is as if there is nothing wrong for the PHED to decide to dig up the same road to lay their pipes and damage the road the next day. These are just two departments, but it can be so many others whose work spaces are virtually the same, such as the telecom department and now the electricity department as well for they too now lay their cables underground. These trenches on the roads are not only ugly scars, but potential traffic hazards, especially at nights on unlit Imphal roads.
Our engineers and town planners would probably know it much better, but one way of getting past this problem could be to have those departments which need to lay underground pipes or cables, either lay them on both sides of the roads, and if this is not cost effective, to have their pipelines or cable lines, as it were, branch out across the road at regular intervals of say 50 meters and put a connection junctions on the side of the road with no main supply lines so that consumers on this side can connect to them instead of having to dig up the road to reach the main lines. Maybe the consumers would have to spend some extra to reach these connection junctions, but that is a reasonable price to pay for the greater common good. Once this has been put in place, then the law must come into full force, prohibiting anybody from digging up roads for the purpose. Heavy fines, including even imprisonment, must be made the deterrent penalty for anybody who defies such prohibitions and cause damage to public properties. It is said in places like Singapore, if a man meets an accident and rams his car into a public lamp post, the man is quite likely to be made liable to pay for the damaged property. This example is quite likely to be apocryphal, but still interesting in the light of this discussion.
A general lack of respect for public property is becoming the standard in Imphal, and indeed the whole of the State, and the government must therefore take it as its responsibility to reverse this trend. It can do this precisely by enforcing rule of law. In doing this, it must lead from the front and demonstrate that everybody is equal before the eyes of the law. What is forbidden by the law must apply to VIPs and commons alike. Only when this has been assured, respect for law, and rule of law, can be regenerated in the society as a whole. In making any such social projects a success, what should obviously come across as vital, is also for the government to keep its ears close to the ground, and listen to pulse of the place, and in equal earnest read the writings on the wall. At this moment, those who genuinely, and with no touch of cynicism, wish the government would get about governing in the interest of the public, are simply ignored, just as the numerous commentaries by so many on the issue of the bizarre clashes of work spaces of government departments that this editorial is once again raising, have been.
Sometimes, those in the media, and other such professions, who by the compulsions of their professions are called upon to make observations on such issues as these, are left feeling like the Chorus in Greek tragedies, merely watching the protagonists of the stories and passing comments in utter dismay, making wishes and judgments, but never even nurturing the hope that they would ever be treated as participants in the unfolding drama, allowed to contribute in the shaping of the destiny of which their own lives also are vitally a part. It can be frustrating.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam