It is sad but nonetheless a reality that any debate on governance in Manipur have to begin from the very basic. What higher issues of governance can make meaning when even matter like a running drainage system, a proper garbage disposal plan, a functioning traffic management regulation etc, are still very much centre-stage in the general concern of the citizenry. These are things that should have been taken for granted, but can they be in Manipur? In the capital city Imphal, even a day’s un-seasonal torrent, not to talk about the famed tropical monsoon of the region, can cause chaotic water-logging problem throwing life out of gear, flooding stagnant and unattended drains, washing away the wafer-thin black toppings of most roads leaving hazardous potholes camouflaged by muddy waters filling them… and the list of woes can go on. But if these are monsoon laments, barely a few weeks after the rains cease, a new set of problems would set in. The mud that the flooded drains brought onto the roads would then transform into lungs-clogging dusts, exposing everybody to immense health hazards. But most ironically, the place would also become short of drinking water, and it may even come to pass that the government deems it essential to declare the state draught hit, frantically crying for Central assistance in its effort to overcome its misery. What an absurd theatre Manipur has been reduced to indeed.
It is a despairing thought that these are only the elementary components of governance, and there are layers after layers of much more complicated and sophisticated issues above them. Health, public distribution system, law and order, development, employment generation, poverty alleviation, settling ethnic unrests and a whole lot more. But the higher order of governance can only come after the government has demonstrated that it can handle the basics. We wonder when the government is ever going to take cognizance of this? But before it reaches out for the grand and sublime, let it sweep its courtyard clean first. Why can’t the government take care of even the drains in the major population centres of the state, beginning with Imphal and the other district headquarters? There is nothing political about these initiatives and would meet with no resistance from the many firebrand “apex” bodies, zealously working supposedly for “public” and “community” interests, claiming as they all do of having the undivided mandate of the “public” they supposedly work for. Why can’t the government show a little more interest in these things? Consider this issue. A few years ago, the government had with fanfare decreed a conditional ban on the use of plastic bags. The issue at the time of course was in political vogue with so many other states taking the lead. Once the fashion subsided, the Manipur government forgot about the issue, and today, ugly discarded plastic shopping bags and bottles in multi-farious hues and sizes have virtually become part of the landscape of Imphal and the other towns of the state. Why has the government allowed its commitments to become characterised by such fickle political whims?
Let the government pull up its socks and without further delay set at least these basics right first so that it can with confidence launch into higher projects of governance. At least devise a way to end the daily non-political miseries of the people. It needs to be on a war footing too, for the other more weighty issues of governance cannot wait too long either and many of them are waiting to explode. The entirety of the prospect, we have no doubt, must be intimidating for any government, but that is how the ball bounces for Manipur at this juncture, and any government that comes to power must be ready to face the challenge and play it. On a more personal note, those at the helm of the government ought to remember that history remembers only those who take up these epochal Herculean tasks and overcome them. History is also lenient to those who take up these challenges earnestly even if they do not succeed, but none have ever received even grace marks for becoming super-rich by transfer of wealth from public to private accounts through bribery, corruption or percentage cuts from government contracts that the officialdom of the Manipur government has become infamously reputed for.