Bandh Menace

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If there is anything desperately overdue on the part of the Manipur government, it is in asserting its presence and authority in the affairs of the state. The state has been in total chaos for a long time and it is time to put a halt to the decay process. It has become a tradition for one and sundry organisation to call strikes, bandhs and blockades, for whatever grievance they have against the government, legitimate or otherwise. But much as these disruptive modes of protest have become a nuisance, it must be remembered that they are also an index of a lack of public faith in the governance process and its capability of delivering justice. Very few today, even those who abhor bandhs, believe the government has the ability or inclination to calibrate public needs and entitlement, obsessed as those in charge are with more personal benefits to be had from the levers of governance entrusted into their hands. Even so, the time bomb of social discontent continues to tick on, waiting for a trigger to set it off. This bomb has exploded many times before causing ugly scars on the body of our society, and yet the old game continues, rewinding the clock even before the dusts from the last of these periodic explosions settled. If the government had been credible, people would have understood when it genuinely did not have the resource to complete certain tasks. But sadly this is exactly where things have gone awry.

Now the conditioning of the people’s collective psychology by prolonged exposure to the corrupt and frivolous governance has been such that nobody believes the government even when it is genuinely not in a position to execute obligations. They have also come to believe that the only way to make the government listen is through arm-twisting tactics. In this way, the governance process in Manipur has been reduced to a series of knee-jerk responses for both the government as well as the people – government fails to oblige the demands of certain interest groups, the groups call blockade, government concedes something, reinforcing in the process the belief that the tactics pays, so that the next time a similar situation arises, the same dreary cycle of Pavlovian stimulus-response trap is repeated. It is for this reason that one of the most major task before Manipur today is to restore the credibility of the government institution, indeed the most important institution of a modern polity. Needless to say that in this project the major responsibility must rest on the shoulders of the government that be – in the present context, Okram Ibobi’s team. The government’s moral hold over its subjects, for so long eclipsed by distrust, must now be brought out of the shadow. It is not unreasonable to believe this will be the germ of a new salvation process for Manipur.

A lot of the allegations of corruption against the government have no documentary evidence to support it, none-the-less, numerous circumstantial evidences have ensured that many of the negative images thrown at it have latched on like painful carbuncles. As for instance, after seeing the condition of the roads even in the heart of Imphal, who wouldn’t believe money meant for road building have been siphoned off, including the 10 percent of it which is rumoured to be reserved to fill a certain very privileged pocket. The same impression would be what comes across from every other issue of governance. Maybe the government did genuinely have limitations to meet many of these obligations, but given the credibility and reputation it has acquired, who would believe it when it makes clarifications. How is it ever going to shake of this terrible reputation? How is the head of government to get himself exorcised of the demon of “ten-percent” image haunting him? The government must not treat the issue lightly. After all, on it depends the health of future governance. The terrible and counterproductive stimulus-response relationship it has come to have with the public, must undergo the right therapy for a conclusive resolution. To begin with, it must make governance transparent and accountable. This must be followed up by a commitment by the government to lead by examples. Only then they can with authority be firm in dealing with habitual bandh callers and other saboteurs of normal life, and purge the society of a dangerous, growing menace.

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