Law and its Keepers

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Politicians are known for making promises to win support and popularity but seldom with a belief in what are promised. They get away with this because the electorates have also come to accept it as normal for political promises to be no more than hot air and have never seriously punished any politician for going back on their words. This is bad enough, but in Manipur there is something else that has become institutionalised. The government is in the habit of making non-serious laws. When an individual politician makes false promises or for that matter earns a reputation of being incompetent and corrupt, the loss in public esteem is somewhat restricted to the individual in question, but when frivolity in law making becomes a norm of a government system, or corruption begins to be seen not just as an attribute of individual politicians but of the state institution as such, the dangers involved should be obvious to everybody. In so many ways, this has been Manipur’s predicament. Except for diehard conformists, few still believe the system is capable of delivering, all this thanks to the misdeeds of the system’s keepers who have with remarkable lack of scruples reduced the entire governance mechanism to a conglomerate of private fiefs they are given the privilege to plunder.

There are plenty of examples how the law has been belittled by irresponsible and noncommittal governmental decrees and law making. A few cases will illustrate. So many times have the government declared employees who absent themselves form office during bandhs called by unlawful organisations would be penalised severely. Till date we have heard of no employee ever being made to pay. So many times the government have threatened that the principle of dies non (no work no pay) would be applied to employees who go on extended no work strike. Till date this principle has never been applied even though employees have defiantly gone ahead paralysing the administration for months. So many times have the government declared blockades and bandhs are illegal but never actually gone ahead to make habitual bandh callers feel their actions are unlawful. The natural conditioned response of the public has been to begin believing there is nothing very much to be taken seriously about the law and there is nothing very much to fear about breaching it. In the process, lowered in esteem before the eyes of the public is the entire establishment and its authority. And yet, because the responsibility for this unfathomable loss is so diffused, nobody, not the least those in the government, seem to realise a grave offence has been committed. We wonder how everybody can be re-sensitised enough to realise the dangers involved for everybody in this somewhat invisible abuse of the system.

There are yet much more immediate examples of this atrocious irresponsibility, and one which has a direct bearing on the quality of life in the state. The case of the Imphal traffic would fall in this category and this should not come as a surprise to anybody. The state police establishment does have a traffic police department and this obviously also means there are traffic norms that are to be strictly enforced. Yet few vehicle users are in awe of traffic law anymore, not even the very basic of driving only on the left side of the road and overtaking from the right on roads not broad enough to accommodate several lanes. This creates frustrating bottlenecks at every traffic junction, because everybody resorts to unwarranted lane-jumping to squeeze in and be in front, blocking off lanes which should and could have been left free for vehicles taking turns which need not be held up at these junctions. Again few vehicle users seem aware of important traffic markings and signs such as the Zebra Crossing, parking and non-parking areas, so much so that people even park on bridges, a taboo in any civilised world. Likewise there are no designated bus (and auto) stops, so these transport vehicles halt anywhere they spot a passenger or a passenger wants to get off, unmindful of the inconveniences they cause to other vehicles on the road. Yet again, we have seen how every now and then the government bans parking in the bazar area, and in enforcing these norms even go to the extent of damaging wrongly parked vehicles. However, things have never failed to return to the chaotic normal, for the government for whatever the reason have always dropped off vigil after a few months. The question to be asked is, if this was to be allowed, what about those whose vehicles were damaged while the norms were enforced. Should not the government pay compensation? What the government is doing is not only belittling the law, but also putting law-respecting sections of the population who have adhered to the spirit of the government directives, at a miserable loss, materially and in spirit.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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