Two things the BJP government at the Centre has embarked upon have caught public imagination like few ever have done before. Both involve cleaning up India. One literally so under the banner of Swachh Bharat, is a drive for public hygiene. In many ways, this has been like taking a leaf out of the Aam Admi Party’s broom revolution. The other works at a different plane, and is about a battle against corruption. The government took the initiative, and therefore there were suspicion that it was a gimmick, as much as it was about haranguing opposition parties, but now the judiciary has virtually taken over, leaving no doubt whatsoever this act is serious, and would expose the corrupt regardless of party affiliations. Curiously, there is a sense of déjà vu here too, and the amorphous picture that flashes across the mind’s eye again is reminiscent of the AAP and its rather loud clamour of dismantling and abolishing the monolithic edifice of corruption from the country. Whatever the case is, for the average man on the street, it does not matter whose original ideas these new initiatives were, so long as they serve the purpose of cleaning up the country of these two crippling scourges.
These are nationwide programmes, and the execution of the former especially is beginning to be visible even in Manipur with various organisations, with and without party affiliations, coming out in the open to sweep public places. This is laudable, but a lot more needs to be done. As for instance, Imphal city and the State’s other townships are getting increasingly congested. In inverse proportion, even as the population expands in these townships exponentially in the last few decades as rural folks leave their villages and migrate to the cities to look for better livelihood opportunities, living spaces have been shrinking. Among others, one of the most visible consequences of this trend of population concentration in towns is a multiplication of solid wastes in them. While the thrust of Swachh Bharat programme remains, things would be fine, but what about later. Considering there is no systematic and efficient waste management policy of the government, in the congested markets especially, garbage will inevitably begin to pile again. It must be remembered, these markets are also residential areas. So don’t blame the people if Paona and Thangal Bazars in Imphal, right now free of street garbage, for instance begin to be buried in their wastes again soon. The question is also where would all the wastes generated in towns be disposed of? You just cannot remove waste from on locality and dump it at another. Alongside the broom then, what are also urgently needed are more creative waste disposal systems, such as pollution free incinerators. We do hope the government takes note of this.
The other cleaning up act is equally daunting, if not more so. Unlike the first, which is physical in nature, this one is more about a spiritual cleansing. As everywhere in India, corruption today has been institutionalised in Manipur too. Besides bribes for government jobs, in Manipur corruption most prominently manifest as a deep nexus between the executive and government contractors. In a “you scratch by back, I will scratch yours” relationship, these two classes loot the public exchequer by collaboratively compromising public infrastructure building and reaping unwarranted and illegal profit together. But the corruption culture has percolated right down the ordinary citizens who too have no compunctions about paying bribes to get undue advantages in the competition to avail benefits of the establishment. The sheer magnanimity of the cleaning up left to be done in practically every aspect of life in Manipur being what it is, sometimes it is difficult not to be scared into resignation and inaction. However, the laudable cleaning up initiatives must not be allowed to be in vain, and the effort must be to make the fight relentless.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam