Uncertainty, Human Behaviour and Development Trajectory: Manipur scenario


By Amar Yumnam

One important natural characteristic that humans hate most is the uncertainty associated with the surroundings, the interaction with the surroundings and the outcome of the interplay with the surroundings. Naturally all the human endeavours have been oriented towards reduction and elimination of the uncertainties associated with life and the efforts for survival. We construct a house, despite the contemporary elements for luxury, basically to address the uncertainties associated with nature. If the nature were friendly to our existence in the open, there would not have been the necessity for having roof over our heads. It would have been more so if the animals were not cruel and there were no tendency for violence characterising human behaviour. Since both these requirements are absent as both nature in the original form and human interactional behaviour before the emergence of civilisation are unfriendly to each other and highly uncertain, there is the imperative to construct houses.

While the uncertainty associated with nature is taken care of by the construction of houses, roads and other physical infrastructure, the issues still remain as to how the intra-human interactional uncertainties would be taken care of.  This is how families, village, communities and societies had emerged as powerful institutions with norms and taboos as rules to be observed in the daily interactions of the human beings. These informal institutions are paramount for human survival, interaction and advancement. The state is the highest stage, until the world evolves into a single society, with the incorporation of government as a new institution. The state has been empowered to formalise the rules of interaction and functioning, and to facilitate this performance it has been given the power to legitimately use violence.

The point I am basically trying to drive home is that all the attempts by human beings have been to reduce and, if possible, eliminate the uncertainties associated with continued existence. In this endeavour the state has been the most powerful instrument they have created. This being so, the legitimacy of a state derives from the ability to reduce and ultimately eliminate uncertainties characterising human environment and outcomes of human efforts. This is one truism irrespective of time and space.

In the background of this understanding, we can appreciate what exactly the scenario in Manipur is. This is important for identifying the weakness in the prevailing mould and to sharpen the strengths for a better future. Are the people of the province experiencing a feeling of reduction in uncertainties? Do the people accordingly feel optimistic about the outcomes of contemporary occurrences, and the quality of life of the rest of their lives and the lives their descendants would lead? This is where the tragedy becomes salient. The people of Manipur do not feel secured about the present and optimistic about the future. They do not seem to trust and thus put their bet on the capability of the prevailing system to change the course of trail. Even more unfortunately they do not even feel confident that the picture would undergo change and for the better.

This tragedy has necessarily to be traced to the character, functioning and performance of the state as they have manifested in Manipur.  This is so because of the orientation, promise and performance of the state over the years since the Britishers left after the World War II. The state has all along highlighted the failures of the market (the private and social interactions and functioning outside the control of the government), emphasised the fundamentality of following the government-oriented functioning, promised the delivery of development at the doorsteps and pursued this approach for the last seven decades.

The examination of the role, character, functioning and performance of the state in Manipur has to be done in two layers. First, there is the orientation, character and performance of the Indian state as evident from the orientation, character and performance of the central government of the country on issues relating to Manipur. Secondly, there is the orientation, character and performance of the provincial government on addressing the problems confronting Manipur.

The trust, confidence and optimism of the people of Manipur can be generated only when the people experience a temporal phenomenon of solution of one social problem after another. This unfortunately has been terribly absent in Manipur. During the last seven decades, every significant – both in size and implications – social issue of Manipur has been allowed to magnify and evolve into increasingly multi-dimensional complications. The rising frequency of mob-delivery of justice is testimony to the failure of the state and the revival of market in its crudest form. The union government’s approach to addressing the social issues of Manipur has been one of suppression and not of solution; suppression has been put in place instead of searching for solutions hoping that problems here would not comprise a headache for the aggregate polity, and would not adversely affect the collective economy. The transformation of the decadal Census operations into a medium for lying about demographic is, as a policy-induced collective behaviour, the best example of this. When it comes to the provincial government, the orientation, character and performance has been one of predatory state. A state is ultimately the government which in turn, courtesy Milton Friedman, are the individuals manning the government. The federal relationships have made it prudent for the provincial state to be oriented towards performance and functioning for continuance in power rather than performance and functioning for betterment of societal existence by reducing the uncertainties of life.

In fine, the state as an institution has utterly failed in Manipur to ensure the evolution of the society towards reduction of uncertainties of life. But this is not only bad but is also never a sustainable situation. What the province needs today is the change in the orientation, character and performance of the state towards addressing the issues rather than suppression, and welfare rather than power as the principle of state functioning. Here increasing ethnicisation and divisive articulations are to be understood as the inevitable outcome of the failures of the state so far. The state should now give direction to these articulations towards a shared vision within a shared competition for progress.


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