Data as Policy Beacon


For long the IFP has been advocating the need for the government to evolve a comprehensive database, and based on them comprehensive white papers on the employment structure as well as community wise constituent percentages in the government hierarchy. We were prompted by the often levelled serious allegations from different communities that the Manipur government has been biased toward the majority community, the Meiteis, in job recruitments, and that the hierarchy of its power wielders itself ensures that all important decisions are swept by the interests of the majority community. We had also suggested that such a database would be invaluable to allay such apprehensions and suspicions if they did not have a foundation or else be valuable guidelines to make suitable rectification if the allegations are proven true by an actual headcounts. But beyond proving or disproving the allegation, it is anybody`™s guess where else such a database could come handy. For instance, we can think of what the government could have done with such data to arrive at a decision on the agitation by the state`™s Muslim community for the introduction of a reservation policy for the community in government job allotments. Is a genuine cry for special statutory asymmetric measure to ensure more `inclusion` of what is believed to be an `excluded community` in the different hierarchies of government justified? Are the Meitei Pangal actually marginalized? These are questions that could have been much better answered without ambiguities had the government given some serious ear to IFP`™s long standing suggestion. Reservation is a sensitive matter. It can level out playing fields where they have not been uneven, but it can also tilt the same playing fields in the reverse direction if flawed criterions are used to determine it. Hence, it is absolutely essential for the government to know where it treads on the matter.

We too do not have the relevant data in hand, but still by and large, the Muslim community is much less better off than many other communities. While some among the community are exceptionally rich, the majority are burdened by grinding poverty. As for instance, the community forms a large percentage of the menial labour force in the state. They are also visibly more given to petty crimes such as vehicle lifting, as police reports after reports have indicated. These, together with other factors may be vital indicators that some sort of positive discrimination must go the community`™s way. We do however believe that all such affirmative action must have to be time bound, lest they come to be treated as birthrights, as in the case of the reservation policy for Schedule Tribes and Schedule Castes. Positive discriminatory measures must remain only so long as the income and opportunity disparities remain above what is normally considered as not alarming and therefore acceptable though not desirable flaws of normal society. Unqualified extension of these measures can reverse the injustice to those who are made to compete with a hand tied behind their back in the name of levelling out the playing fields. This is what all the agitation against reservation in various institutions of higher learnings in the entire country currently is all about. Reservation is necessary considering the inbuilt and deep rooted inequities in our social structure, but it must have qualitative as well as quantitative limits.

To re-emphasise the point, in evolving any of these policies, what is most needed is hard data. This database in the future can extend beyond the government`™s employment sector. It can for instance include things like, how many heart specialists are there not just in the government services, but also in the private sector. Likewise it could keep a tag of film makers, documentary makers, fiction writers, retired academicians, playwrights, journalists, which district they belong to etc., so as to save time and energy when the government is left to do a manhunt while starting new ventures and need to appoint knowledgeable people to different positions. This will be a census exercise of a specialised kind, and updated much more frequently. It is beyond argument that good record keeping is a vital instrument of good statecraft and it is equally true the Manipur government has been very bad at this.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here