Mere profession of goodwill by the state administration cannot be all that is needed to allay the widely held suspicion that government employment status in the state has been unscrupulously hijacked by the state`™s majority community. While it is true that the sizes of the pie before the administration at any given time are small, and that this fact itself would have been enough cause for general dissatisfaction, the government is obliged to establish beyond reasonable doubts that it has not been systematically unjust to any sections of the population, especially to those in the hills where visibly the most bile have accumulated on this count. Many of the allegations such as this one, over which the state gets to see periodic blockades on its lifeline highways, often seem justified considering the disparity in development of the two main region of the state. This in spite of the fact that such a disparity is as much a reality within the valley, and the poorer regions of the valley cannot be any better in terms of development than much of the hills. The government must however treat this perceived injustice seriously, for while those who honestly believe it has been institutionalized would be justified in their anger, those who think it is not would also be equally justified to be piqued at the constant allegations. Such an atmosphere cannot be a recipe for the much elusive social harmony that everyone is on a frantic hunt for these days. The charge for instance that the Manipur University does not any longer have any tribal academics in senior positions needs to be looked into and veracity of the charge established. If this is indeed the case, the reason for this must also be found out. Technically, an absence does not always have to mean deliberate exclusion. It can also be a case of lack of candidates. As for instance, Manipur has not had a cricketer in the Indian team does not necessarily mean exclusion.
We suggest the government to bring out a `white paper` on the decadal structure of the administration and the funds flow pattern. It can for instance take lateral headcounts of the employment structure at randomly selected decadal points. The ethnic constitution of the employees at these points, at the top, mid and bottom hierarchies, should be able to tell a more truthful story of how just or unjust the state has been to its ethnically divided population than all the sustained allegations or the equally persisting defences put up against them. If this story tells of no ulterior and discriminatory game-plan, let the obdurate critics step back, and on the other hand, if there indeed had been such a slant in the administration, let adequate steps be taken now to straighten out the wrongs as well as to introduce mechanisms to ensure this cannot happen again.
On the social plane, discrimination by the valley dwellers against their hill brethren have been obvious and indeed pronounced even a generation or two ago largely on account of the faith the former have adopted. Today this social apartheid has receded, and although its existence in pockets cannot be still ruled out, we are certain it would die its natural death by the turn of another generation. But the damage has already been done considerably, as evidenced in the gulf that has come between the two worlds. There can possibly be no quick fix to mend these deep social fissures, and the ultimate healing will have to come from the civil society. We do believe, given the public spirit here, this story will see a happy denouement. If the atmosphere that feeds the venom to the parties in conflict is removed, as optimist we believe no bitterness can be passed on beyond a generation or two at the maximum. It is with an eye to fostering such an atmosphere that we suggest to the government to come out with a `white paper` on the structure of its administration.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam