In the Spotlight: ‘M’ for Manipuri society and ‘M’ for MPSC

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Md Shafikul Haque

A great American sociologist, Robert K. Merton, once examined and analyzed twentieth century American society. He found out that the means to achieve the ‘American Dream’ – good paying job, nice house, lovely kids, new cars, etc. – did not conform to socially accepted institutionalized means. His social strain theory explains the discrepancies between culturally accepted goals and socially/traditionally accepted means to achieve those goals. For example, having a good fortune is a cultural goal of a person. However, the societal structure in which he/she grows up does not mandate an accepted means to gain such goal. Rather, it pressurizes individual(s) to conform to gain the goals set. In this context, individuals are given different modes of adaptation – the most important being – conformity and innovation.

That was America. Individualized American society has progressively evolved. Race relations have improved considerably. Open discriminations have become a part of history and opportunities are shared among achievers. Systematic rules and norms are set out clearly and implemented almost effectively.

Contextualizing Manipuri society
Taking a cue, an attempt to analyze an evolving subculture of our present society would be a fruitful exercise. Citizens are comparatively law-abiding; a sense of justice prevails generally; communitarian attitude and unflinching faith in the democratic system bind them together. One could grasp without much difficulty when he/she is confronted with certain common events in respective locality – be it an issue of so-called ‘mob justice’, protests and demonstrations against abuse of power by ‘men in uniform’, movements for rights and so on. These are liminal features of the larger Manipuri society – a society in a transitional stage.

What we can take away from these subcultures is an urge among people not to tolerate any form of injustice, to claim and possess rights which are due and, finally, to bring about a fundamental change in socio-political and economic relations among various constituents of the larger society. These are pious principles and goals. If people are made aware of and are as well convinced that the system has legitimate means to positively channelize their angsts and frustrations, perhaps, there would not be a chance to call ‘mob moral policing’ as ‘mob justice’.

Nonetheless, within these developments, certain profound deviant-culture keeps on evolving which needs serious attention, wherein the actors/agents, without fully understanding the consequence of their actions, continue to indulge in puerile acts of volition.

Fooling Around in One’s Own Chamber: A Case Study
Recent news of allegations of corruption and malpractices against Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC), an independent Constitutional body in the state, highlighted in local vernacular dailies, through discussion hour in electronic media and a national newspaper, have put the Commission in the public spotlight. The allegations are serious in nature and deserve to be answered, if not by the Commission, by concerned citizens of the land.

After a thorough perusal of the claims and allegations against the Commission and its officials through available sources, as a concerned citizen, I find them very shallow. The arguments put forward are not only narrow in scope but also seems to have deducted based on suspicions and individuals’ cognitive assumptions.

First, the pertinent question is if any candidate among the aspirant-candidates would reach the lowest mark obtained by the last successful candidate across the categories. If that is not the case, the impression that alleged poor work by MPSC examiners amounts to denying justice would remain a defeated voice.

Second, the main allegation, based on mere suspicion of marks tampering allegedly by staffs of MPSC in lieu of concerned examiners, would again be an exaggeration on the part of the opposition party to garner public sympathy. This was already put to an end after a Court ordered enquiry conducted by a three-member Committee headed by a former Judge found no discrepancy during evaluation of answer-sheets that could amount to injustice to any candidate.

Finally, most importantly, for any aspiring civil servant (read educated), fight for justice must be associated with a sense of dignity in life. A strong belief that justice could be delivered at established temples of justice, i.e., Courts of the land, needs to be embraced. The so and so outspoken aspirant-candidates seem to have less faith in the judiciary.

Understanding the Big Picture
As mentioned, Merton’s strain theory (and subsequently General Strain Theory), was credited, to an extent, for its explicable power of a larger subculture phenomenon, i.e., accumulating wealth (approved goal) through illegal drug trade (unapproved means) in the then America. One of the sources for such deviant ‘innovative’ adaptive mode to a society, according to later GST theorists, was the failure to live up to expected/desired social class/status.

Here, in the context of present Manipuri society, this is like history repeating itself. A group of unsuccessful aspiring-candidates, finding it difficult to fathom, take out to streets in search of people who could lend their ears even for seconds to listen to their side of the story. People, as told, being sensitive finds their distortions seemingly authentic, thereby, making their bitter personal fight looks like a fight for all and by all. Such is the nature of ‘innovative’ deviants: perfect products of present ‘societal structures’, which recognize the culturally accepted goals – getting a decent and secured job, a nice house, a dignified life – but do not mandate a traditionally accepted institutionalized means to earn such goals. Perfect pseudo-artists, who puzzle together bits of everything. Collage. Montage. Assemble!

This Press Release was sent by Md Shafikul Haque, who can be contacted at shafitabu(at)gmail(dot)com.

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