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Health, Pollution and the State: Absence of regulation and common sense

By Amar Yumnam
Absence of Regulation: The general health indicators of Manipur are robust as compared to the rest of India. This has been corroborated by various surveys including the few rounds of National Family Health surveys. But we can no longer be sure of our capability to sustain the comparative initial advantage in this regard. It is quite probable that we may soon lose our superiority here in the same way we did experience in education. The rising density of the use of mouth-masks testify to the relatively high consciousness about health among the masses in the same way it proves the immense rise in dust pollution in the land. The high level of patience of the people is also established by this application of mask rather than litigation and other protests against the state’s incapability to address the problem. But these do not in any case imply the absence of rising health risks and increasing compromise with the responsibility of state towards public health issues. Further, these by no means reduce the public health hazards. 

Recently we have also had a report from an agency of the state relating to the unwarrantedly high level of noise pollution in the city of the land. This does not come as a surprise to anyone exposed to the cities around the world. India is perhaps the only country in the world indulging in massive use of horns by the vehicles. In this, Manipur must be the worst. The blame for this noise pollution has to be borne mostly by the state and to some extent by the general public as well. We need first to mention the mistakes of the functionaries of the state. The group of people who use the horn most extensively in the city areas are the police and the paramilitary forces; the army of late has improved their behaviour in this regard. The next group are our Very Important Persons who are given security escorts at the expense of the public exchequer and who mostly enjoy the beacon lights in their vehicles.

These absences of good behaviour and rational conduct are not confined to the individuals associated with the state in one capacity or the other. They extend to the general public as well. Now it is very common to observe the increasing prevalence of such behaviours among the general population as well. This is particularly observable among the neo-rich who have accumulated their wealth through means foul rather than fair and have become owners of vehicles of new craze. These people mostly do not have to display and rightfully proud of in the society except the wealth accumulated through means other than known sources of income.

Now we can and should sensibly ask as to why such a situation prevails in our land. It simply is absence of regulation by the state. Even if there is any regulation in regard to these, it is followed rather in violation than in obedience. With the individuals associated with the various responsibilities of the state indulging in these rude behaviours, the message to the general public is very clear. Naturally the public follows suit, and the circle of nonsense is complete. Unfortunately, there has been no spontaneous movement from the side of the general public either to evolve a rational behaviour in this connection. The fall-out in all this is that ultimately nobody is a winner in this game and the society as a whole pays a huge price in terms retrogression.

Grass and Our Ethos: Currently we observe the removal of unwanted grasses from the road dividers existing in the city areas of Imphal. Before I comment anything on this exercise, I would like to recall the Manipuri ethos relating to cleaning process. Ours is a society with a very strong foundation of Yennakha Lukha Nanna Thamba and Shumang Thelong Wai Shitchanba. In all these social traditions relating to cleaning process there involves a holistic approach. Nobody would leave any task of the whole to be completed by another person. One would gather the dirt in one place and either burn or bury them, and in no case would anyone leave the gathered dust to be scattered by the wind or anything; dirt is in any case is something to be hidden from public view and in order to avoid the wrath of Ima Emoinu Ahongbi.

Now all these rich social traditions have been subjected to helter-skelter thanks to activities where the state is a party. The current grass removal exercise is a prime case. The labourers would remove the unwanted grasses from the road dividers and would just leave the removes on the sides. These would in turn gather dust and ultimately turn into another cause for ugliness. Only God or the government knows what kind of cleaning drive it is and what kind of cleaning it is.

The Issues: It is exactly here that we certainly need individually as well as collectively to absorb certain lessons. A society is much more than a process of bilateral interactions between individuals. We forget that any action by the individuals associated with the state and every action by the general public have political and social substances involved. It was the realisation of these substances which was the foundation of the Enlightenment in the west, and the development spurts in the East. The state in Manipur and also the public in Manipur should try to explore and understand the inherited positive ethos of the land and endeavour to build a society befitting to those by being conscientious of the social and political substances of every action.



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