Union Looking East

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Quite obviously Prime Minister Narendra Modi meant it when he said developing the Northeast is going to be one of his top priority areas. In what seems a translation of this informal statement of policy intent, in the past one week, almost on a daily basis, important Union cabinet ministers have been visiting the Northeast, many of them making Manipur a stop on their tours. These visits no doubt would put the state government on the alert, and nobody will disagree this is good. Democracy works best when checks and balances are built into the system at every level, from the very top right down to the bottom. No need for reminder again that this is precisely what has been lacking in Manipur for all this while. Those at the apex of the hierarchy of state power have come to think they are untouchables, not even by the law, and have been virtually doing whatever they fancy. This has also expectedly been having a cascading effect, and down the hierarchy too, this sense impunity has percolated. Today the entire officialdom has become a monolithic corruption structure where each class of employees scratch the back of the ranks above them and together reap their unholy harvest of public money. This will be more than evident even in a cursory scan of the wealth disproportionate to the known sources of income of these employees.

However, Like so many abnormal trends in governance, corruption too has become Manipur`™s new normal. But the trouble is, the government can give employment to barely 2 percent of the population, therefore even if this corruption monolith were to be accepted as a skewed form of wealth distribution system, it cannot reach the majority of the population. This being case, we are concerned because unless this monolith has been effectively checked, even if total dismantling of it is impossible, all talks of resolution to some of the most vexing social issues of Manipur, including insurgency, will remain in vain. This notwithstanding, though everybody knows corruption is a scourge affecting their individual lives directly or indirectly, their spirit of resistance has now been lulled effectively by the intimidating belief they are powerless to change anything. It is from this vantage that we are encouraged by the signs of new and sustained vigil the Union government seems intent on keeping on the state government. Hopefully, at the end of it, there will be some governance accountability introduced. Wasn`™t it the Prime Minister who had himself said government servants must remain as servants of the society and not its masters? We do hope this current rush of ministerial visits from Delhi is a way of the Prime Minister putting his money where his mouth is.

We must however say there are obvious cautions. Manipur is under a Congress government and the Union government is BJP. This must not result in any vendetta thereby topple democratic norms in Centre-State relations. We say this caution is essential for we also see the state unit of the BJP trying to take advantage, even encouraging the use of undemocratic means to unsettle the state government. This is especially repulsive because as yet the BJP does not have the people`™s mandate in the state, and the party is without a single seat in the state Assembly. The party still did not have this mandate in a bye election to a vacant Assembly seat held after the BJP government was installed at the Centre. If the BJP leadership in power at the Union were to facilitate in any way the undemocratic backdoor entry of the state BJP to the state Assembly through the undemocratic means of using the office of the state Governor, it may amount to some immediate gains for the party, but the longer term losses, in terms of a general depletion of faith of the people not just in any political party, but the Indian democratic polity itself, will far outweigh these immediate gains. Let the state BJP wait till the Assembly election next year to prove its credentials, and it would be to everybody appreciation if the Central BJP leaders rein in its state unit to ensure this is the case.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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