Blockade lessons

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Christmas has just got over. Unfortunate the celebrations this time were subdued in Imphal on account of the tensions in the state in the wake of the United Naga Council’s blockade of the state, protesting against the creation of new districts by the Manipur government, and the counter blockades that sprung up in response. It will be recalled the UNC blockade began on November 1, in anticipation that the Manipur government was about to concede to the demand for SADAR Hills and Jiribam districts to be made into separate districts, without first getting their approval. Nearly a month and half after the launch of the blockade, the government did not just go ahead to create the two new districts, but five more, for whatever its wisdom or the lack of it. Expectedly, the UNC hardened its stance on the blockade. While the UNC or any other organization has every right to protest a government decision, an indefinite blockade of a state can never be warranted under any democratic law. Indeed as we have all seen, this was the general tone of the opinions of most responsible media nationwide. As this newspaper among others have also warned all along, such a resort was bound to acquire a communal hue, especially so because of the hardship the general public were already suffering because of demonetisation. It remains to be seen, if those behind the current dangerous entangle have learnt a lesson from this more or less universal understanding of the morel legitimacy of agitation methods.

It must also be said the state’s resilience in such times of crises is largely on account of its strength in the farming sector. There is a basic level of food security that the state enjoys because of this sector, and hence even in the event of prolonged blockades, though the public misses a lot many other essential items, their stomach is never totally empty. If this were not so, the mayhem on the streets would by now have been beyond easy control. Hence, among many others, one of the vital lessons is, the state must build on this strength. It must henceforth lay extra emphasis on food security, and towards this it must strengthen its land laws so as to make compromises of cultivable land impossible, be it in matters of infrastructure building or reclaims as real estate. The government can begin thinking in terms of fanning out whatever infrastructure projects possible and feasible to the hill districts and those which must be located at a central position so they remain optimally accessible to all the districts must also begin to be located at the non-agricultural foothills. The state and its people must also begin thinking in terms of creating more areas of self-sufficiency. Other than agriculture, it has done reasonably well in the services, especially in health and education, thanks to the mushrooming of private enterprises in these sectors. To these, the effort now should be on improving, or initiating a manufacturing sector, or at least reassembly units. As for instance, nobody will dispute as to how much the present shortages and sufferings would have been alleviated had there been a gas bottling plant in the state.

One more picture became clear in the wake of the current blockade. Nagaland public, though understandably concerned with the happenings in a neighbouring state, were not eager to blindly make common cause with any party in the state in the present tussle. Except for a few politicians, such as chief minister TR Zeliang, who were eager to divert attention away from public discontents in their own state with their own incompetence and corrupt ways, it was quite visible that the Nagaland public generally looked at the blockade with raised eyebrows. Even a call by the NSF, a body with a strong Manipur Naga presence, to join the blockade had to be dropped because of this neutrality of the Nagaland public. This being the case, let the unthinking sections of the Manipur public also take care not to heap any unwarranted blame on Nagaland and lose this unspoken but quite obvious sympathy with those who had to bear the brunt of the blockade. Come to think of it, if Manipur vehicles ultimately decide to prefer the Jiri-Imphal route, the businesses in Dimapur, the highway filling stations at Medziphema and Kohima, the eating stops along the highway patronised by truckers and other transporters, will also suffer big blows. The same would be the case on the Manipur side of the border too, and in fact, in the years that have gone by, there have been quite visible changes in the status of say Mao Gate as an emerging highway business hub, because of the fall in confidence of trucks and buses to halt there for a stretch of leg.

IFP Editorial

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