The Imphal Free Press turned 21 on May 3. By happy serendipity, May 3 is also the World Press Freedom day. So in celebrating IFP’s anniversary each year, we also aptly celebrate press freedom. This happy moment of the IFP hence is doubly blessed. We like to believe this is a poetic acknowledgment of IFP’s commitment to the journalistic profession. Among these commitments, what we have always held as the most important is holding power to account, whoever it may be or whichever party it is which comes to power. We will continue to do this without fear or favour. But before all else, we extend our best wishes to all our patrons who have been the spirit behind our enterprise. We have been through good times and bad times in the past, as is normal for any living entity, but we have always through hard work and enterprise alone, weathered whatever difficulties that stood in our way. Problems do not end and probably cannot end, so we cannot with justice say the way ahead will be a walk in a rose bed lined garden path, but we know and have demonstrated our resilience in the 21 years journey we have completed so far. With the goodwill of our patrons, we have no doubt we will never abandon the ideals of our chosen profession.
But on this day, we are once again led to reflect on the state of affairs in Manipur. For it goes without saying that the situation in the state has been at an extended nadir. We hope the new government will do its best to lift this gloom. Otherwise, nothing about the social mechanism seems to be working at this moment. We are especially worried about the new disparity between the haves and have-nots. The thikadar culture which has percolated even to the ministerial level has ensured that only money can make more money and those who do not have money have no means or hope ever to be able to find a respectable place in society. Some despair at this, others resort to shortcuts, and this is provided readily by the existing gun culture. Official corruption was once mostly about a few lakh rupees as bribes in job recruitments and other service related matters, which is in no way good, but the scale has transformed astronomically with this new culture of contractor-government nexus. In this nexus, a crore of rupees siphoned from developmental funds is small change. While this is happening on one side, there are also a growing number of people with no tangible income. This is not a good sign either, not from any ethical point of view, but for harm it can and would ultimately do to the social mechanism. The old cycle of the have-nots being forced to resort to means inimical to the law to keep abreast would become perpetrated.
This has also had other implications quite visible to everybody. Take the political scenario in the state for instance and the men who emerge as political leaders. Once upon a time, a bulk of the politicians on the leadership field constituted of school teachers and people from profession close to the people, therefore commanding heartfelt public respect. This changed over time, and politics also became retirement stations for bureaucrats. The change indicated not just which class was emerging as dominant and influential but also who were the most resourceful. Bureaucrats, even retired ones, were emerging richer while the teaching profession stagnated. Then in the last 20 years or so, there has been a radical transformation prompted by the new government-contractor nexus, and today the politics is dominated by contractors, and the crass and loud nouveau-riche culture they bring in. A survey of the candidates in February elections, probably would confirm this and at least half of the candidates would be from contractor background. This is happening because elections today have come to be determined by money alone. This is virtually the obituary for political imagination and statesmanship, therefore everybody’s doom in the end. We hope changes come in sooner to deliver the state from the chaos and violence it is currently trapped in. The media needs to be vigilant of this unfolding social milieu and be the watchdogs to try and have the society strike a balance. This is no mean job, considering that increasingly the media too is getting lured into the same nexus.
Source: Imphal Free Press