Silent Crises In Manipur: Time for application of mind, evolution of policy and action for change


By Amar Yumnam
Manipur is now facing serious social crises with national, international and provincial implications, and  which are not perceived as such by the population (I include intellectuals as well) and by the government of the population. But these crises do demand attention of and application of mind by the government of the population, agency for action and the centres of application of mind. I must define here what do I mean by centres of application of mind. I am invariably and continuously reminded of what an academic elder and professional advisor (let me mention Professor Atul Sarma, one of the best Economists of the country and with whom I have been discussing issues of the North East right from 1980 to this day) has been emphasising for any development process. He talks of three leaderships: a. the political leadership to be provided by the politicians; b. the administrative leadership to be provided by the bureaucracy; and c. the intellectual leadership to be provided by the intellectuals. He has always em
phasised that none of these actors can afford to fail in performing her roles or otherwise there would always be a vacuum, a vacuum unaffordable by any society; if all three fail chaos is the outcome. While the political and administrative leaderships are self-evident, I must explain what intellectual leadership is. Now I mean the institutes of higher learning and the responsibilities performed by academics in those when I say centres of application of mind; this is intellectual leadership.

Before I spell out the silent crises confronting the society of Manipur, let me emphasise the kind of responses needed to these crises and to be provided by the intellectual leadership, the administrative leadership and the political leadership. All these demand application of mind, evolution of policies and implementation of policies with a long term perspective. Before taking more time, let me emphasise in no uncertain terms that this long term perspective is really long and extends beyond the life-time of a human being. This is because the issues involved relate to the society at large and any society’s life definitely extends beyond the life of an individual. The ultimate question is about the survival and survival with meaning of a society; an individual can find meaning within a context of a social framework. The American way of expressing nationality on the basis of belongingness and not on ethnicity has many lessons to be digested in this context.

The three types of leadership are not sacrosanct in isolation, and meaningfulness emerges only in convergent functioning. The way to appreciate the issues confronting the society are to be provided by the intellectual leadership. The decisions for converting these ways into policies are to be taken by the political leadership. The means for effectively implementing these decisions in terms of actions are to be provided by the administrative leadership. The biggest social crisis facing Manipur today is that the three types of leadership are not in tandem; the political leadership imposes decisions on the administrative leadership, and these two types imagine that they are supreme and superior to the intellectual leadership. The truth of the matter is that no society can flourish on the assumption and functioning that each leadership is exclusive and supreme; there is no example in global civilizational history that this premise is sustainable and has provided foundations for advancement. One latest example is
what a good colleague of mine in international relations has told me on how the avoidance of bombing of Kyoto (a role played by the intellectual leadership in the USA) helped in establishing wonderfully close relationship between the United Stated States of America and Japan after World War II.  This non-convergence and non-coordination in the functioning of the three agents in Manipur is of a nature of preparedness for responding to the real social crises.

Now what are the social crises? The first social crisis confronting Manipur is the one relating to family, and it applies to every family irrespective of ethnicity in the land. There is a rising and deepening challenge of ensuring livelihood in Manipur. This has impacted on the relationship between husband and wife in the family. With the deepening of the challenges and the resultant increasing impossibility of sustaining love between husband and wife, we now witness rising incidence of wives bearing the brunt of all these in every dimension of the issue. This is not a sustainable atmosphere for the society as well. If the society collapses, what is the relevance of Manipur as an entity at all? The society which would emerge as a consequent of all these would be one different from the society we all have lived with so far. Is this really what we collectively aspire?

The second crisis I would like to take note of is the one relating to the society and going one stage beyond the family. All the ethnic groups in Manipur today are pre-occupied about respective land and population. The first problem here is that there has been no application of mind, no evolution of policy and naturally no implementation of policy to address these exclusivist approaches to ethnic social articulation. We have never thought of converting the enthusiasm for land and population size into a positive approach for improvement of land-based policies and rewarding competence beyond the numbers. This is crisis of failure of all three types of leadership to perform their roles.

The third social crisis facing Manipur relates to international dimensions. Manipur is going to be the socio-politico-economic space where all the manifestations of relationships between South, South East and East Asia are going to occur. The crisis has a particular urgency with Myanmar growing more than 7 per cent per year after the introduction of reforms in 2011 and thus possibility of doubling their income in less than ten years. This necessitates fundamental domestic actions to rise to the occasion. First, we find that all the governance functionings of Manipur do not have any inkling of the absorption of the global character; this applies to all the three types of leadership. Second, since the governance itself has yet to acquire the global characters, the various ethnic groups function in an isolationist and exclusivist way. This is suicidal approach for any ethnicity. Technology is knocking at the door, but we have not cultivated the character.

Now the question arises on how we can think of addressing these social crises, and as there is urgency in addressing these. First, there is the fundamental imperative to evolve a social goal which we all collectively aspire to achieve. Here a quote of what John F. Kennedy said is apt: “By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly towards it.” While endeavouring to achieve this goal, we must be ready to commit fully and ready to overcome everything. Here I would like to quote John Kennedy once again: “[W]e choose …… do the things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills”.

While living up to face the challenges of founding civilisation, there is necessity for the intellectual leadership to be incorporated in the evolution of policy interventions. This is what Jeffrey Sachs calls mobilising the expertise in his wonderful book titled ‘The Price Of Civilisation: Economics And Ethics After The Fall’. First of all there is a need for removing what he emphasises in the book: “Government [read as functioning of any department and institution in Manipur] has been outsourced to private contractors, the ones who pay the campaign bills……..As a result, we live through one abject failure after the next”. Should we live through failures or should we emerge out of those? This is a three million question for eternity relevance in Manipur .


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