Of Aspirations and Change


By Akendra Sana

Epochal changes in society anywhere, transitions from an old order to new, with or without an interregnum are all there because aspirations take precedence over continuance of the status quo. Inaction and continuance of status quo appear normal and easy and there will always be many takers but when the critical point is reached there is no stopping and the roll over to the next phase is only natural. Where that critical level is nobody knows but it is essential to tell ourselves that there are such things. But what then is wrong about status quo, one may ask.
Status quo in our context can, only mean continuity of a certain way of life, questionable or near acceptable at best, law and order situation depending of course on how you view it, whether you are comparing it over a longer period or for a few years. If you put the 1970s as the base, some may say it is over exaggeration. But if you say 2010 was better than 2009 or 2008 or vice versa, it can only mean comparisons of statistical data. All these have however little to do with how we perceive what living in Manipur is like. Because the reality is far more complex than data and the shadow of fear only enlarges with every passing day. Does somebody say a bomb was thrown somewhere yesterday? And simply how many of us are comfortable with so many gun toting security personnel amidst civilian population. 

Would a young man venture out and cross his gates without some identification papers? One really does not know how really unsafe it is to be out there at Paona or Thangal Bazar for a youngster without his Identity Card. For the average boy it is a nightmare of inconvenience if not worse. Imagine squatting down in the dust and grime, shoulders stooped waiting patiently for your turn to say who you are after handing over your ID Card to the armed menacing looking security personnel and enduring indignation. One only knows that his sense of insecurity and extreme anxiety for his parents are for real. Do we not therefore aspire for the day when our boys and girls to produce their ID Cards only when they, say have to open a Bank account and not at every street corner?Come summer vacations and in Campuses in Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad and elsewhere at plus forty degrees Celsius in some cities you still come across hordes of young boys and girls from Manipur when the rest have all gone home. You do not have to ask but they will tell that the choice is of against squatting in the streets of Imphal with an ID Card and the endless power cuts at home, sweet home.

It is now tempting to list out at least some of the other inadequacies of this status quo. Unemployment, do we need to elaborate, how boring. The word itself, if not a phrase is more than a cliché for Manipur. Last heard official figures are six point eight five lakhs registered as unemployed and this in the state’s population of twenty seven lakhs, roughly working out to over twenty-five percent, how impressive! Tackling unemployment is all about the state of the economy and meeting the challenges of capital deployment in employment generating sectors with imagination and ensuring that resources are optimised for growth. 

Availability or non availability of electric power, depending on how you look at it can be the single most appropriate symbol of hope or hopelessness. One hears of watching IPL cricket matches in TV with generators in Imphal which of course probably works out to be as costly as the tickets at the cricket grounds. Do we need to remind that electricity is necessary for many other productive activities even for such little activities as small motor workshops, a key component of the transportation sector and rice mills, and let us not forget a family may have to skip a meal if a nearby rice mill stops functioning? Talk of industrialisation for employment generation and then the next is what industries, however small they are where electricity is not necessary! To all this, of course we can meekly add how do our children study during powerless nights. Expansion of educational facilities in the state is welcome. Imphal today boasts of two Medical Colleges among others and the state has the potential of emerging as a centre of medical tourism. Lest we forget, electric power is of primary importance in any such hope.

To this twin issues of unemployment and inadequate electric power supply one can add all other inadequacies for our youth to aspire to overcome. Let us not forget many of them have travelled and seen a lot and they compare. And we cannot stop them from aspiring. Anger and frustrations are only natural when aspirations are beyond actualisation. It is incumbent on all right thinking individuals of this generation to show some sensible path. The challenges therefore are of meeting these aspirations and giving them hope. And the challenge is direct for all those politicians out there.
Is not Politics about leadership, articulation of aspirations and representation? Who leads well, the people never notice, it is said. Suffice it to say that people notice a lot in our circumstances. The most urgent challenge before this generation of political leadership apart from the mandatory sensible governance and guaranteeing acceptable law and order situation is to tame unemployment and ensure that electric power reaches those who need. Development is only a product of all these. Political formation of any kind in Manipur must now have a time bound roadmap to follow religiously at least for these two issues of unemployment and inadequate electric power if they genuinely profess to be of some service to the people. Otherwise they will be seen to be happily chaperoning our youngsters into an endless nadir of hopelessness. It has been too long that everyone has endured for hope with aspirations for gainful employment commensurate to the efforts our youth have put in competing with the very best in several parts of the world in their chosen fields. It is about time the wise and the enlightened of the land woke up to this silent call of our youth.


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