Of all the north eastern states, Manipur must rank as the most problematic. This story is not just about insurgency and the complex maze of conflicting interests it has created, but also very much about a singular lack of leadership commitment to steer the state out of the troubled waters it is trapped so miserably in, although it is common knowledge that if allowed to remain in this condition for long, the entire ship may sink. There are those who believe in their false sense of complacency that this ship is unsinkable. They better climb down from their ego and remember the words of the onboard engineer in the Titanic, a ship once thought unsinkable, after it hit the iceberg on that cold fateful midnight of April 15, 1912 and suffered a deep gash in its steel hull. To the confident retorts from many of the crew that she cannot sink, in cold, scientific certainty, he simply said: “She is made of iron. She will sink.” We are not interested in making any self-fulfilling prophecy of doom, but we are definitely interested in urging one and all to be wary that catastrophe is not an impossibility for any individual or community, not the least Manipur. Manipur is a dangerously rocking ship in a tempestuous sea as of today, and nobody is willing to do anything to rescue it. As a matter of fact, those who are rocking it (which is almost everybody), are continuing to do so, unmindful of the danger they are putting everybody, including themselves in. This is so because the immediate returns for being unmindful of this danger is too addictive – corruption lucre. Every act of official corruption, adds to the residue of ill will against the establishment, and this residue is at a critical point today. The new BJP government has made a pledge that it would fight corruption but it is unwilling to set up the instruments needed for the onerous task, other than introduce pet projects which can at best make mountains out of isolated official misdeeds while ignoring the mountains of corruption edifices as molehills unworthy of attention. We do agree however that all of what are the talks of the town are not necessarily true, but it is also equally true that all of the talks of the town cannot be fiction either.
While an organized looting of the state exchequer by those who wield the levers of state power is the most obvious form of corruption, it is not all. Corruption today has become a state of mind whereby everybody is on the lookout for ways to enhance private benefits from public projects. Indeed, practically everybody is guilty. The most immediate example would be the manner in which our government schools and colleges have been allowed to decay in all the years because their custodians abdicated their responsibilities with impunity. It is even more frightening that the present custodians of these institutions still continue not to be bothered. No points for guessing that these are onerous responsibilities too, for these are the veritable foundries of the future. Their success or failure will determine the very survival chances of the society as a whole. Imagine what the future would be like if for the next few generations, these institutions continue to produce young job seekers not fit for the new world order. The disparity between those fortunate enough to have afforded private schools and colleges and those who had no means to avail these will have widened beyond bridging too. The magnitude of unemployment, the scale of unproductive activities young people are trapped in, the exodus of job seekers away from the state etc, would also be nothing less than frightening. Manipur then may become the home of only the few who have managed a government job sustained on Central grants. Since these jobs are not earned through sweat and enterprise, the parasitic dependence on Central grants would also only have been perpetuated further. Besides these few, the other denizens left to keep the state populated would probably be geriatrics, well pass their primes and beyond employability. Indeed, the grim picture ahead is probably the prospect an unprecedented implosion. That is, if nobody makes the move to make things improve fast.
This is the challenge before all today and everybody must be willing to take it on not out of any feigned sense of consideration of anybody else, but for their own sake. For like the Titanic, if this boat sinks, all of us will sink with it without fail. While everybody must thus realise that sacrificing opportunistic selfishness in the long run amounts to “enlightened self-interest”, those in power must take it upon themselves to eradicate official corruption – the worshipers of unearned money, as well as those government servants who forget that the justification for their jobs is the services they provide to the people. The latter project must begin with an urgent effort to straighten out our government schools and colleges to make them perform. If this can be dealt with velvet gloves on, nothing can be better, but if it becomes necessary to remove the gloves to deliver bare knuckle blows, so be it. We cannot allow our future, our only future, to vanish for the want of such measures. One cue is, as of today students flock to only a few government schools and colleges and abandon the rest. The government can begin by asking why this is so, and then come up with the answer to take corrective steps for a start.