New Year thoughts

51

It is funny, but if one were to try and recollect the major markers of the year that has just gone by, the mind draws almost a blank. Individual achievements there were some, but even these were nothing earth shaking or enough to cause a public euphoria – like a Nobel or a Booker. There has been nothing very spectacular in public life either – apart from the game of pre-election defections and disdainful stories of turncoat politicians posing as crusaders against corruption and bad governance, eager to make themselves newsy, though for all the wrong reasons. Of course the New Year also began with another blockade against the creation of more districts in the hills. Manipur’s resilience in this sense is exemplary. The hardship of shortages resulting out of the blockade is already normalizing, and people are beginning to take this as another fact of life to be lived with. Thanks heavens at least the state grows rice. If this was not so, the place’s phenomenal resilience would have probably snapped by now. In the valley, there is little or no objection to introduction of new district headquarters, so maybe the government should in the future concentrate on creating more districts in the valley only, and leave the hills alone. Unfortunately, there again probably would be a blockade against this, labelling it as a governmental bias, concentrating all development activities in the valley. This unfortunately also is Manipur’s current reality.

No, there hasn’t been anything worth a toast. We are sorry for being a damp squib, but we foresee nothing worthwhile coming out of the approaching election either. If the Congress comes back, it will be the old wine in the same old bottle, if the BJP usurps the former, it would be the same wine in a new bottle, for the BJP in Manipur is true to the image of being “Congress plus a cow” as Arun Shourie described the BJP as a whole. There is a new party led by a true human rights crusader, Irom Sharmila, the People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance, PRJA, but at just three months, they are still too new to be taken as serious contenders to the state’s seat of power, at least this time. They also do not have the kind of resources needed to wage a full scale election war on the corrupt establishment propped up by entrenched vested interests of not just the powerful, but practically every hierarchy of the establishment, from the lowly clerk to the very top executive. At last count, this party pledged to field only five candidates in the House of 60. Under the circumstance, even those who genuinely appreciate their effort at breaking the corrupt and dreadful stagnancy may be inclined not to vote for them, thinking this would amount to a NOTA, (not any of the above) vote, a cynical abstention and therefore a no-vote. We are however certain this young team will not wind up their mission even if they are unable to make any big impact in the election this time, and will return with better preparation till substantive victory is no longer remote as it seems this time. In the meantime, commentators like us have no option than to pay attention to the current power players.

One of the basic and biggest challenges that the government cannot run away from at this juncture without imperilling the future of the state is the issue of unemployment. No government can forget employment generation is not just about filling up vacancies in the government departments or creating micro units of self-employment. It should instead be about creating the conditions where private enterprises with employment capacities can grow. The self-help groups are essential and must be encouraged, so is shop-keeping which incidentally is the popular notion of business in the state, but the challenge goes much beyond. Attempts must be to foster the birth of captains of industries. Something of this is happening in the health and school education sectors, and to a lesser extent in the media, amongst others. What the employees get in these sectors cannot be compared with the service conditions of the artificially protected government sector, but it must be remembered what the former get is the real value of the market. Accordingly, if the market grows, these services too would improve. If the contributions of government jobs were to be also evaluated by the indexes of the market, there probably would not be so much difference in salary compensations between the government and private sectors, and perhaps in many cases the latter will be on top. The point is, the government’s effort must be to have the economic tide rise so all the boats can rise together, and not just create a few hundred government jobs a year or a coterie of rich contractors and power brokers, and hope to have the employment problem taken care of.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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