Empty Driver’s Seat

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Among so many others, what Manipur urgently needs today, is a sense that things are being looked after, and even if they are bad now the effort to get things better have not been abandoned. Nobody is so naive as to actually expect skyscrapers to begin sprouting, incomes to make any quantum leap, swank shopping malls to spring forth, autobahn highways and freeways to begin crisscrossing the state, for such things have receded into stuffs of daydreams and wild fantasies far away from popular perceptions of achievable goals in the foreseeable future. Indeed, one vital enterprise of the people of the state for which the obituary has been long written is a common ambition for a better society. Thanks to a phenomenal tradition of listless leadership in the decades of its modern era, all generous aspirations for a greater common good have shrunk into individual shells. And since anything as a social security system guaranteed by the establishment has vanished as a result of continued abuse of the system by its very guardians, every man is left unto himself to acquire this sense of security. The obvious path is personal aggrandisement – heap up money regardless of how or where it is had from and buy your way to the future. Those at the very top hierarchy of leadership do it so they can buy back and perpetuate their positions of power, and if they do it how can those lower down in the bureaucracy restrain themselves. They too indeed build mansions much beyond their known sources of incomes, and without doubts mansions and expensive automobiles have come to define popular ambition in today’s Manipur. Since practically everybody in the government thus live in glass houses, nobody, from the top to the bottom of the government hierarchy, dares throw a stone at the other for his own house can get shattered by a return stone – a perfect condition for corruption to flourish and become a given condition of life. Those outside the government’s umbrella either are green with envy or else have found other means to power, albeit the coercive variety. This is primeval jungle Manipur has degenerated into, where survival of only the most unscrupulous and amoral has become the norm.

One is at a loss to imagine where an inspiration strong enough to make this depressing state of affairs change can come. Perhaps some words from men of calibre from the not so distant past could be a beginning. Consider this much quoted statement by Mark Twain, the creator of one of literature’s most endearing fictional characters, Huckleberry Finn. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” The question he implores every one of us with is, why be insecure, have the spirit of Huckleberry Finn, innocent, brave, free and instinctively considerate. There is only one life to live and one death to die. Every proud culture must be having its own wisdom that runs similarly. These were also the very words Khamba of the Meitei legend chanted before he set forth to tame the wild and murderous bull. Under the circumstance, we wonder what Manipur’s present generation would like to be remembered for by history? More immediately, what would the present set of leaders want to be remembered as in another decade or two? Maybe they will not be remembered at all, and we again wonder if this thought does not worry them.

Let us begin from the beginning. Forget any thought of transforming Imphal into New York or Bangkok immediately. Big, spectacular things do not happen overnight. They have to be built brick by brick. The best service that Manipur’s present leadership can contribute to history is simply to set about doing what they are supposed to be doing. They have a Herculean task before them, but let them demonstrate to the people they are taking on the challenge. If the effort is visible and convincing, even if they do not succeed totally, the people and history would be ready to forgive. Two simple shows of commitment to duty should be a good starter. First, make and repair roads as they should be. The state’s roads are rotting, even in the heart of Imphal, and instead of constructing and reconstructing them, they are merely being whitewashed (or black-washed as it were). Second, have a garbage disposal system working, especially in the capital. As of today, Imphal is getting stifled to death in its own waste.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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