Surviving slow strangulation

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It is unlikely the multidimensional conflicts in Manipur would go away immediately. This is in spite of the fact that so many other conflict-ridden places in its neighbourhood are going through a healing process. Sad as the case may be, it is essential the people assert their will to keep the place afloat and away from insanity. This will entail keeping all the essential survival qualities of a society intact. Above all, it will be an absolute necessity for the place to continue honing its competitive skills and spirit keeping in pace with developments outside. This is not an easy job even in normal times, and will definitely be uphill for a place immersed in such a complex conflict situation. But, there is no other way than to do it, if survival as a society is important. Surely, none of us want the state to be reduced to the condition of any one of the sub-Saharan countries, impoverished beyond recovery and with not even enough money or resources to keep the semblance of an administration. The apprehension that such a scenario may become a reality in our state is very immediate, considering it is slipping in most spheres of activities needed to keep an economy going. Its education was for such a long time in the pit, though now there seems signs of recovery, thanks largely to private initiatives in the field and the government`™s acknowledgment that most of its schools are beyond redemption and a radical remake was necessary. We do hope such a change in approach also comes about in its college sector as well. As of today, most of the thousands of graduates churned out by our colleges and universities are employable only by the government, hence the steady rise in the names listed in the employment exchange. Only a small section of them have landed quality jobs in any white collared private sector enterprise of worth. Those who have would in all probability turn out to be professionals trained outside the state. Unimaginative government policies coupled with the general insecurity of insurgency and counterinsurgency have made sure that the state`™s fledgling enterprises, including private educational institutes, remain much below what they could have achieved and contributed to the state`™s economy. The number of work days these enterprises have been forced to lose in utter despair and helplessness on account of bandhs and blockades is nothing to trifle. The revenue losses for many of these small enterprises amounted to threats to their very continuance. In the absence of a government with substance, or more importantly moral authority, policy matters continues to be decided from the streets. All these say very little for the shape of Manipur`™s not so distant future. The vision of a weak and vulnerable people left to fend for themselves amidst the blinding rush of the competitive world, cannot fail to eerily haunt anybody what Manipur`™s destiny might ultimately be.

There is no doubt the place has done well in sports and performing arts. But these may actually be a direct consequence of the violence and conflicts that have enveloped our society. In fact, to use a Freudian interpretation, they may actually be the manifestation of the same violence, but in a sublimated way. The angst within the soul of the place that has been the driving force behind all of the violence may actually also be the materials that form the building blocks of our sports and arts. But in enumerating and evaluating the achievements of a society, there are things that go far beyond. The erstwhile East Germany and the Soviet Union were sporting powerhouses and havens for the arts. Their failure to survive should be evidence enough these are essential but hardly enough.

One needs only to look around to discover how many people are actually absolutely incomeless even in the state capital. The traditional family structure has been providing the cushion to absorb the devastation this could have caused. The welfare state that our polity is by definition, even if it is a begging one, has also helped. If not anything else, it has been providing 90,000 direct government jobs, justifiably or not, with handsome salaries, which together have been managing to keep the fluidity of our markets, artificially or otherwise. The question is, how much can the family system and the welfare government buffers keep the place from imploding under the mounting pressures? At this moment, if these buffers were to be removed, the economy will virtually have no legs with which to stand. Insurrection and the political uncertainty as an excuse for the chaos must end. Whatever the outcome of the conflicts, at the end of it, the people must still have the legs to stand on, and this can happen only if they make the extra effort to prevent the economy from grinding to a halt in the meantime.

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