By Amar Yumnam
The only way to carry the forward movement of a society onward and ensure the sustainability of social coherence is through ensuring the positive quality of contemporary youths forever. We may be enjoying a high social growth at one moment of history because of the adults performing well, but this will be lost in the next period if the youths of the present period are of questionable character. Manipur now stands at a critical historical juncture in so far as this issue is concerned.
The Fear: The greatest fear we have of the future of our society is the widespread problem of addiction of the unwanted kind afflicting the youths of today. In the valley, there is hardly a village free from this gigantic problem of addiction of youths not to studies and sports but to drugs. This problem has become so widespread that it has now to be taken as one of the priority areas for political economic intervention during this second decade of the twenty-first century.
This inroad by addiction to drugs into the behavioural frame of the youths could be because of the active involvement of vested interests in the drugs trading, including quite a few powerful members in the powers that be today. This needs to be tackled very strongly by the governance of the land. But the fact remains that while there could be many debates as to how the addiction and the sustenance of the process of addiction are being continued by the different vested interests involved, we need to be applying our collective and individual mind as to identify the circumstances facilitating the emergence of a phenomenon of massive addiction of youths to drugs.
My Take: My take on the theme would be that the rapid and widespread collapse of the educational institutions right from the schools to the level of the colleges in all the localities of Manipur has been the major culprit. This collapse has made the earlier social capital of local community oversight of deviant and unwanted youth behaviour extinct. Most of the contemporary adults working in the land and outside are products of local schools and the nearest colleges; the question of travelling by the vans to the schools did not simply arise in those days of the 1960s and 1970s. It was a veritable sight and absolute local cohesion when we could be party to joint attendance and joint vacation for all the children from the same locality attending the same local school. This certainly helped the synchronisation of community interests in the locality, and thus get community actions adjusted to suit local developmental functions. It was rather easy in those circumstances to establish as to whether which child was indulging in unwanted behaviour as the communication flow was intense as the children and parents were from the same locality. But this social monitoring mechanism has been done to death by the government through the massive massacre of the once thriving local schools with every possible political mis-intervention.
The Reassurance: The reassurance out of the current malaise in the valley areas lies in one interesting aspect of the children in the schools in Manipur. We are ensured of the firm strength of the few best students in each class in the now competitive schools in the valley. All these students would be among the best students anywhere in the world. They are firm in their commitment and aware of the global and globalised competition ahead of them. They are ready to take the bull by the horn in so far as establishing themselves in the global labour market is concerned. They are not bogged down by the lack of encouraging and facilitating environment in the home soil, but rather look to employment opportunities based on competitive strength and that too in the best of places in the world today. In fact, it now seems that this competitive spirit has taken roots among the serious youths in the valley of Manipur as exemplified by the rising widespread placement of boys and girls in the valley in multinational corporations, firms and institutions in most of the thriving countries of the world today. This is in addition to the firm placement in the metropolitan centres of India.
The Widening Gap: Now I have a great worry. This emergence of a core group of globally competitive professionals in every conceivable frontier areas of science and technology among the youths in the valley does not seem to have a more or less equal counterpart in the mountains of Manipur. In other words, there is now emerging a new phenomenon of widening capability gaps between the valley and the mountains of Manipur. If the present trend continues for another decade or so, the divide would be so great that any amount of politicking by the mountains would simply not carry any political economic implications; the big capability gap would just naturally reduce to irrelevance any move for equal development.
The Core Fears: Now in the light of the above, I would put two issues as social agenda for the current decade of the 21st century. First, in the valley, the State needs a social movement and a political commitment for reversing the rising tide of drug addiction among the youths of the valley. Second, we need to launch a social movement in the mountains of Manipur for drawing public attention to capability building. If we could perform these two tasks in this decade, the next few centuries would be ours. The choice is before us.