By Amar Yumnam
The winds of change are blowing the world over. Corruption and authoritarian regimes are under pressure in all the countries today. While in the earlier eras of human evolution, people had little knowledge as to how and with what mechanism these evils were to be fought against, they now do have the mechanism as well as the medium for effectively putting this into application. For the first time in human history, the relative strengths of the leviathan and the public opinion have been put to real test. It has now been established that despite the look and perseverance of power, the leviathan is essentially vulnerable. Further it has been established that the ruling elite too are a very fragile group. Since they consist basically of self-serving individuals, whenever there is any groundswell of public anger there easily arises cracks in the veneer of consensus they profess to have. Now is the time when we could warn the powers that be anywhere with Jacques Necker (1792), finance minister to King Louis XVI of France, thus: “Only fools, pure theorists, or apprentices fail to take public opinion into account.”
While the officers in the security set-up may remain loyal to the power elite, we cannot expect the citizen army to be brutal on the fellow citizens whenever a formidable public movement arises. This was fully demonstrated in Manipur in the June 18 event and in the developments now marking the Arab world. When the movement possesses massive support, the size of the leviathan security forces makes no difference; the force of the security agencies gets neutralized.
Old But New: It is true that corruption has been an issue societies have had to fight against for a pretty long time. But, as mentioned earlier, people now have the methods to fight against it. At the global level, we already have the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Further, unlike before, transparency and accountability are increasingly becoming the buzzwords of public demand.
When it comes to India, the reality really bites. While many countries have already ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, India still remains one of the major laggards yet to ratify it, of the total. This is understandable of course. The recent events unfolding one scam after another and including the issues of money laundering in Swiss accounts speak of the reasons why India is still reticent about signing the convention. But it is going to be increasingly difficult for the power elite in this country to stop the global tide of movements against corruption with the power that modern information technology has given to the formation and assertion of public opinion. The very fact of the scams getting dug out by the news agencies testifies to the emerging trend in this country.
By any yardstick, the moral authority and public credibility of the Indiangovernment have already suffered a nose-dive consequent upon the exposure of the scams. Even the clean-image of the head of the people of the country has not only suffered a beating, he himself wears an injured look while facing the media. This is in sharp contrast to the image he commanded and confident posture he displayed while he was fathering the spate of economic reforms as minister responsible for looking after finances of the country.
Manipur Not Left Out: My colleague economist Elangbam Bijoykumar has recently interpreted the emerging economic scenario of Manipur. He forcefully and quite rationally explains the increasing hold of the contractors on the society of Manipur with construction emerging as a major component of the State’s economy. The contextual interpretation of this trend speaks of the unhealthy direction the society of Manipur is heading at an increasing speed.
But what is of utmost interest to social observers of the land is that the global and national trend of fresh wind blowing seems to have touched Manipur as well. In terms of capability to use force and indulge in manipulations to achieve the desired outcome, the present government in the province would have very few competitors. But the recent bye-election to an assembly seat held by a prominent member of the ruling party has turned out to be an eye-opener. It has established beyond doubt that the people of the land can and do hit back as when the situation compellingly demands. What only awaits the land is a spark that fires a collective sharing of public opinion simultaneously. Under pressure of public dissatisfaction, the provincial government seems to increasingly losing its grip over issues. The handling of the ongoing strike by the teachers and the statements being made in this regard only speak of absence of application of mind.
The Final Lesson: The key lesson emerging from both the international and provincial developments is singularly significant. It might take time for public opinion to coalesce, as many citizens would just sit back when the issues involved have elements of haziness. But when the regime perpetrates the excesses beyond a reasonable intensity and also beyond a tolerable time limit, it would definitely dawn on the people for the necessity to unite and assert aggressively. Once this dawn occurs, the public opinion alone would determine the course of history. What was unthinkable till yesterday would be the reality today. Miracles do happen when the public are resolved of the issues involved in a united way.