Meecham Praja: The forgotten common men in Manipur

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By:  Amar Yumnam
The basic purpose of having an administration and a governance system anywhere needs to be recalled and analysed at this moment of history when we are celebrating six and a half decades of independence from foreign rule. This is because, despite the recent more or less impressive track record of good growth performance, the meecham praja (common people) seem to be at the receiving end of every mechanism of governance.

Manipur Scenario: The situation is worse in Manipur than elsewhere in the country. Whereas the rest of the country has reaped the benefits of modernisation, although the dispersal of the benefits has been an issue, the case is different in Manipur. We have not had the kind of economic expansion experienced elsewhere whereas we have had more than our share of the inflationary trends and growth disturbances. Further, while in the case of other States in the country there are people in the administration who are alive to the fundamental purpose of governance as facilitating the access to administration and livelihood efforts of the common people, we are pained to observe the complete reversal of this principle in the case of Manipur.

We can have multiples of daily life exemplars to drive home this subjugation of the common people. First look at the daily dose of alertness they have to have at their command in order just to be in the business areas of Imphal and cross the streets. They have to bear all the costs of insensitivity of the official vehicles and arrogance of the private ones as well. What I would love to see is the kind of scenario where my senior-citizen “mother” and my aged “father” would feel at home and cared for whenever they set foot in any area of the Imphal city; well, a very unlikely and unrealistic expectation.

I would consider myself as someone who is fairly conversant with own rights and responsibilities. I am also fairly conscious of how to resist encroachments into my personal space and rights arena. But pretending and behaving as if like any of the common men in the street in daily dealings and assert when violated has taught me how hard the daily lives of the commoners are in Manipur. Let me start with an example from an office of the Central government. In a personal post-paid mobile connection for which I have been religious in paying the due bills every month, there occurred recently an interesting development. Even after payment of the dues as reflected in the latest bill, there used to be reminders for payment of dues for at least three to four times a day for about ten days. In the beginning, I had the impression that it must be just machine problems or routine issues. But within a few days, I found all out-going calls barred besides the STD and ISD. When I had sent one of my office assistants to enquire into the status and reasons for the barring of all outgoing calls, two things of great interest emerged. First, the daily multiple reminders for payment of dues stopped immediately after the enquiry for reasons best known to the staff of the department only. Second, the concerned officials sent back my boy with explanations which any reasonable person can immediately establish as nothing more than a bluff. Dissatisfied and angered by this, I did call up a higher ranking officer of the department as a prelude to going for full scale grievance correction complaint. On his intervention, I got the barring removed. But that was not the end. The ISD and STD were still blocked. I had to go for another round of telephonic contacts to get the ISD and STD barring removed.  Now the question that arises here is what might be happening in the case of a commoner who is not so conversant on the various recourses to actions to get his due services delivered.

Further, once the barring has been removed, why does not there exist a system whereby the connection is restored to its full functionality instead of requiring further contacts? Still further, it needs to ponder why the indulgence in full blown bluffing when an innocent person was enquiring about the issue. Similar experiences are undergone daily by the common people while dealing with the offices of the State government as well. Now these suppressive features of governance are superimposed on the rising difficulty of the common people to eke out their living.  The rise in the prices of commodities of daily consumption in an atmosphere of shrinking livelihood opportunities is a reality everybody is living with.

Now the Resolve: Now in the celebration of the August 15, we need to be very sure of at least one resolve. There is no point in making many promises. The need of the hour is reminding ourselves the existence of a majority of the common people in circumstances un-conducive to their functionings. The administration would be doing a yeoman’s service if it at least resolves and ushers in a period where the facilitation of the survival of the common people is the yardstick of the success or otherwise of governance. We all should remember that not only do we all have a common beginning, but we also have a larger set of relatives among the commoners. Let us all try to facilitate each other’s existence, particularly of the commonest of the common people. Nobody would be a loser in this, and the society would be the gainer in terms of peace and stability.

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