By Deben Bachaspatimayum
Minister Karma Shyam model can be synergetic in changing Manipur political culture and traditions. Future will remember Minister Karam Shyam as the one who made a difference in several ways in the areas which are critical to the lives of the people. Karam Shyam, as Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, has demonstrated an agentic persona which is a departure from Yes Sir model of the political class in Manipur. His initiative of taking cycle to office is also major booster to the local initiative of the Manipur Cycle Club (MCC) which was launched in 2011. Manipur cycle club is an initiative of concerned youths and citizens of the state to address increasing health, environment and economic issues of the people of Manipur as against increasing air pollution, uncontrolled growth of motorized transports, traffic congestions related health hazards, and increasing costs of city transports in the state. Being a role model as a minister for right conduct and lifestyle change in the contemporary socio-economic and environmental situation will greatly contribute to peoples’ desire for better days in Manipur. Such initiative by elected representative may also redefine politics and attitudes towards the people and also facilitate policy changes in the state. Minister’s initiative to use cycle has direct relevance to implementation of SDG12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production pattern by 2030 in the state around which Govt of India has framed its national sustainable development goals under the theme: Energy efficiency and efficient use of natural resources. It may also be noted that other SDG goals like Education and Lifelong learning for all (SDG4); Sustainable agriculture and food security (SDG2) and Peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG16) which are critical to Manipur’s situation and expressed priorities for people of Manipur has been dropped from the national priorities. While Mr Karam Shyam’s initiative is a perfect example of Act locally; Think globally there are also challenges to overcome on the road ahead.
A minister cycling to his office brings a new dimension to the Chief Minister’s initiative to transform the deeply militarized and inaccessible state to one that is easily accessible and listening to the people through Meeyam Gi Numit. Role modeling change in one sector inevitably crosses line into another sector whereby lots of Govt programs and policies can show remarkable performance through convergence. Though convergence policies seem to have had no difference in the deep-seated inter-departmental conflicts of interests and discord within the systemic rot it is hoped that this initiative of Mr Karam Shyam under the leadership of CM N Biren do make a dent in this grey areas of governance and administration. Promoting cycle use inevitably connects and must affect changes in the transport department which has caused more problems than doing quality service to the people. Traffic Jam is order of the day, today. The uncontrolled growth of vehicular population in the state without any policy to regulate public transport system continues to be major deterrent for many people who want to use cycle in the city. This must be addressed through inter-departmental efforts.
Five years back when Manipur Cycle Club submitted to a memorandum to the then Chief Minister and Transport Department fervently appealing to create cycle lanes in the city area it went to the trash bin without any response. During the last 5 years most roads in Imphal city has been expanded in width but no cycle lane or proper footpath are seen although budgets were provided for. Lack of safety and security of cycle users have caused death of at least 3 cyclists on the road and injuries to elderly people who still think cycle is the right choice for the poor and dependent status of the state. Though number of people using cycle in Imphal city has increased over the last five years the exponential growth vehicle population is filling in all available space on the road and increasing risk to cyclists. A recent survey of all kinds of transports plying on in Imphal city during peak hours shows acute marginalization of and higher risks for non-motorized transports.
The data speaks degree of risks to cycle users and pedestrians louder. For every 1 cycle rider on the road there were seen 90 to 100 Two-Wheelers; 40 to 50 Three-Wheelers (Autorikshaws) and 60-70 Four-Wheelers (all kinds of private and passenger vehicles except for bus and trucks) whizzing at break-neck speeds every minute. Unlike comfortable and safe space the Minister is honored to have with his escorts cycling side by side the woes of common people using cycle and footpath is multiple which needs to be attended while promoting people to use cycle on the road. Except for the stretch of footpaths along the Kangla moat and sides of BT Road there is no safely and comfortably walkable footpath in the city. Most footpaths are uneven, breaks up abruptly, uncovered with slabs, encroached and blocked by shops and workshops at many places. The widened road sides have become parking places and so people have to unsafely on the road brushing aside with fast moving vehicles. Safety and security on the road must be put in place first then more cycle will follow and not the vice-versa will help. The department of Consumer Affairs has to talk to the Imphal Municipal Corporation to clear the roads sides of the parking shops.
In absence of any cycle lane or knowledge about yellow lines on the road the cycle users absolutely have no safe space on the road. In fact, expanded roads have increased more risks for cyclists than earlier narrow roads. The Imphal Municipal Corporations has used the expanded road sides to open parking shops in almost all congested areas especially Yaiskul Petrol pump to CM’s Banglow, and the roads stretch all along the Kangla moat. While understandably IMC may be generating better revenue from these parking shops it must not create discomforts, and compromise safety and security for cyclists and pedestrians. People who use cycle and walk on the road should also have equal rights to safe space. Since safer road sides are blocked by parking vehicles, most often in double rows, a cyclist has to ride among the fast moving vehicles while being honked from behind and at times shouted at for obstructing the speed. This creates unnecessary mental tensions and health hazards to cyclists due to noise and air pollutions on road. This is because of the ignorance of the general populace who use vehicle on the road and also insensitivities on the part of concerned departments responsible for safe and smooth transport systems. Safety for the cycle users as part of responsible consumption requires collective efforts of the Municipal Corporation, Transport, Police and Consumer Affairs Department.
Being a role-model is most effective way of communicating a desired change in the society. It is here Minister’s initiative is highly appreciated. This can reduce the Govt’s tendencies to create more jobs in security sector and promoting militant behaviors of the personnel on duty as traffic police and law enforcement agencies with heavy investments. Savings from the security sectors can be diverted towards more creative and productive social change activities by promoting more role-models in different sectors of the Govt and all works of life in addressing myriad issues and problems in the society. Consumer Affairs can institute awards, scholarships and fellowships for role models and innovations in all kinds of consumption activities in the society. For instance, can there be some awards instituted for the families which demonstrate minimal wastage of food and use of plastic materials, and local initiatives for efficient waste management at the time marriage, birth, death ritual ceremonies and any other social occasions; can there be awards for local clubs, schools, Govt offices, colleges which has demonstrated exemplary environment and social sensitivities in minimizing consumptions and promote youths and entrepreneurs who comes up with innovative models in all consumption activities, etc. Similarly, can there be award for police personnel and Autorikshaw drivers who have shown exemplary behaviors in respecting citizens and laws? Lastly, can this Govt revive the Manipur Cycle Manufacturing Unit and produce affordable quality cycles designed to suit local needs? Can Govt also create cycle sheds and “Pay and use cycle facilities” in the inner Imphal city areas at appropriate place and declare “Only cycle week” every month?
Source: Imphal Free Press