When the Dust Settles


Imphal city is in a mess at this moment. However, unlike only a few months ago, a method seem to have visibly returned to the madness of digging and construction works all over the place. For quite some time, although many important roads were dug up and new constructions of government infrastructures begun simultaneously at numerous places, everything seemed to have been either progressing at snail pace or else abandoned with no sign of work resuming in the foreseeable future, causing immense inconvenience and frustration for the inhabitant as well as visitors to this capital city. Now, many roads are still dug up, making them not only traffic and even pedestrian unworthy, but also perpetually kicking up huge clouds of dust all over, but the difference is, the works are now resuming at a pace that would not be an exaggeration to describe as hectic. The change in the mood of the people at this change, from one of total dejection and outrage, to a somewhat optimistic outlook, is noticeable. Even uncompromising critics of the Okram Ibobi government, which would include a greater section of the state media, now grudgingly admit that in a year or two, Imphal would have a very different face and skyline.

There is something to be learnt from this. People are willing to tolerate hardship and inconveniences if they are convinced these are ultimately for a greater public good from which they and everybody else would benefit. Indeed, we must also admit that we too somewhat can visualise a different Imphal in the next few years or even less. The completion of the three new Khwairamband Keithels alongside the BT Flyover was the first to bring back some relief from the claustrophobic place that Imphal was becoming. This was accompanied by re-linking of Paona and Thangal Bazar. It was as if a long shut but vitally important door was suddenly thrown open again to the public. The RIMS Road, which had remained shut for nearly two years, throwing many small shops out of business, is also now open after the underground drainage system construction was completed and sealed. The road is still to be black-topped, but it is already becoming a busy street. There are diggings as well as road broadening works along many other major routes, but unlike in the past, the drive to complete the projects, are tangibly evident. The Palace Gate area too is promising to be a very dignified and important institutional area, with so many culture related institutions located here, including the BOAT, Iboyaima Shumang Lila Theatre, the Manipur Film Development Corporation building, the incomplete but ostensibly grand convention centre now rising towards the sky, the All India Radio office blocks, the ancient Hapta Kangjeibung (polo ground) which also couples up as a fair ground etc. One can imagine private homestead located within this area feeling uneasy that the government would someday or the other, want to acquire their properties to locate other public institutional buildings.

Perhaps the government`™s new found energy comes from the fact that this is an election year. The term of the current 9th Manipur State Legislative Assembly is due to expire in about nine months from now in February 2012 and the best way for the government to campaign is to show the public that it can deliver. Those in the government would be calculating that action now would erase all the frustration of no government action in the years preceding this. They would of course be banking on the well known attribute of public memory being short, to believe that what it does now is much more important from the point of view of the elections than what it did not do in the last four years. Whatever the reason may be, for us in the state, what is important is that the public infrastructures being constructed by whatever the compulsion the government is under, will be for their long term benefit. Since the forthcoming election seems to be a strong motive, the people may actually be luckier than they imagine, and may get to see a much more modern Imphal by the turn of the year. We would join all who wish this becomes a reality. We also hope that in the same period, the availability of electricity and municipal potable piped water would have augmented enough to make life in Imphal easier. If all these conditions are guaranteed even if by only 50 percent, the critical point at which the engine of economic progress as well as the general outlook of the people begin revving up on their own should come to be within reach. To add a footnote, amidst all these changes, we only hope that the statue of King Bheigyachandra taming the Tekhao elephant which has since been dwarfed by the BT flyover, is either shifted or else reconstructed at a more dignified location, such as at the space outside the Kangla Western Gate or even the traffic roundabout there.


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