If it was in medieval Japan, and if much of what is happening in Manipur today were to be Japan of the time, there would be a long line of government officials committing hara-kiri each day. The sense of responsibility and self-inflicted punishments that hara-kiri culture represented, at not living up to responsibilities and expectations in Japan of the time and even the inherited but sublimated versions of them in the modern times, is sometimes pushed to the limits of the ridiculous and thereby often lampooned in the rest of the world. But the fact remains that this ages old sense of responsibility and the work culture it induced in the society have taken this country of a string of relatively tiny islands, with no worthwhile mineral resources, hit every now and then by devastating earthquakes and tsunamis, beat all odds to be an economic and military superpower, until very recently occupying the second spot after the USA in the list of nations with the highest GDP, but even now still comfortably in the third place after China overtook it.
Compare this with the work culture in today’s Manipur. Nothing seems to work here. A sewerage project which has made many important roads in Imphal unusable for years seems forever condemned to be in the status of “work in progress”; black toppings on city as well as country roads are periodically washed away every monsoon; despite promises of installing the necessary infrastructure to transmit adequate electricity to the state from the Northeast grid nothing ever has changed, and on the contrary, the power situation has become even more erratic than a few months ago; municipal water pipelines laid at ostensibly huge costs to the state exchequer seldom work the way they were supposed to leaving out numerous localities and suburbs of even the capital city bereft of treated drinking water; likewise newly constructed public utility buildings develop cracks and fault lines even before they are inaugurated; it is also an old story which remains forever new that garbage dumps pile up into mountains on the city roadsides… The list can go on. What exactly is happening? Why is nobody ever held accountable for all these mismanagement and bungling? Why isn’t a single concerned minister or a chief engineer ever hauled up for roads that begin to disintegrate at the slight hint of monsoon rains or a public building that atrophy much before time? Why is it that it has become a culture in the government services that few or nobody take pride in the work that they execute? More importantly, why is a system of checks and balances to not allow such a culture not in place in the government establishment?
The answer should come across as obvious. Every hierarchy of the government is involved in some way or the other in what is veritably an organised looting of the public exchequer. All of them, those who execute as well as those who are supposed to monitor these work executions, are simply content scratching each other’s backs, for in perpetuating this corruption, each of them stand to monetarily benefit tremendously. Most of them live much beyond their means as well, acquiring properties in several major metropolises of the country. It is however a wonder that nobody benefitting from this corrupt system ever sits back to consider how they are condemning the entire state, possibly to its ultimate doom. Why is it that it never occurs to them that all the chaos and violence and that have come to be the state’s staple are also largely on account of the corruption and injustice they have introduced and perpetuated in the system? More importantly, why are they so short-sighted as not to see that when the state sinks, they too would sink, for in the end it is the same boat they ride in that they abuse so ruthlessly and thoughtlessly?
Shouldn’t there be a change of mind now? Should not those who reap the most benefit from the system begin thinking in terms or giving back to the society that gave them the good fortune they now so liberally enjoy? In fact, this essential generosity should not be restricted to government servants alone. It should be the outlook of everybody who has made a fortune from the state. The business community in particular comes to mind. Why are they too not thinking in terms of investing goodwill in the soil that nurtured and continue to nurture them? Building peace and harmony is also about the ability to give back to society a generous part of what has been earned from society. The immortal appeal of charismatic American president, John F Kennedy, to his countrymen comes to mind in this reflection: “Ask not what American can do for you; ask what you can do for America.” Can the word “America” be substituted with “Manipur” ever in this appeal?