Democracy’s stake holders


The battle lines are quite sharply drawn this time thanks to the ongoing blockade of Manipur along its lifelines by the United Naga Council, UNC. What otherwise should have remained as a pressure tactics targeted at the government to have its consider a particular viewpoint, the UNC has today managed to reduce the matter to a communal issue, and the responses are on expected lines. Unlike in past blockades, this time counter blockades are springing up at various places in the valley too, and they too are increasingly getting violent as news headlines in the past few days indicate. Thankfully so far the larger section of the public seemingly are still distant enough to not get too agitated, though the lengthening overnight queues at the petrol pumps every time there is likelihood of petrol availability is an indication of the shortening patience which can become explosive. Thankfully again, it is petrol and other peripheral goods which are sorely missed by consumers and not the state’s staple food – rice – which is grown locally at least to ensure a good degree of self-sustenance. If the state did not also have this as well, it is only to be expected that there would have already been mayhem on the streets by now. However, even if the place’s resilience holds good again and no cataclysmic denouement results, have no doubt, ethnic relations amongst the different communities, which as it is far from cordial even now, would have yet been poisoned some more, and the distrust thus infused would not be easy to flush out of the system for a long time to come.

The present agitation, as is publicly known is over the government’s original intent of creating two new districts, SADAR Hills and Jiribam. Now the government has gone ahead to create seven new districts instead. In effect, five hill districts and two valley districts are split into two. What this means on the ground is, there will be more administrative nodes in these split districts. Instead of one Deputy Collector, DC, handling their administration there will now be two, just as there will also be two Superintendent of Police, SPs, handling the responsibilities that once were on just one SP’s shoulders. The reason given for the agitation is that stakeholders were not consulted by the government while taking this decision to bifurcate these administrative districts. This a familiar excuse not just of the present agitators, but others in the past too, both in the valley as well as in the hills, by those who presume they have the mandate of the people, though this mandate has never been sanctified by the democratic process. More often than not, they also draw their sense of power as proxies of powerful underground parallel governments.

Quite obviously, there is a subversion of the democratic process here. In a working democracy, stakeholders pick the intellectual elite amongst them, or as Plato describe them, the Philosopher Kings, to represent their interests, or stakes if you like, in the government. There can be no direct participation of the individual citizens or non-statutory bodies they form, in the governance process. The stakes they have in the governance process cannot but first undergo a filtration process through democratic elections, and only the representatives they send to the Parliament and State Assemblies through these elections, are mandated to speak on their behalf. Imagine what would be the scenario if on this plea of their being stakeholders, Meira Paibis organisations start demanding to sit and participate in the Assembly debates, or local clubs, civic bodies and NGOs wanting to be given a place in Cabinet meetings. This does not however mean the government can do no wrong and must never be opposed. But there are acceptable ways of doing this without risking enmities between communities.

Again, a stake in an administrative mechanism should mean improving the reach and spread of that administration so that more people have easier access to the benefits of the system. If this is the definition of holding a stake in the governance process, it will be difficult to see how creation of more districts would hurt any stakeholder’s interest, unless the stake is something else other than good administration or general welfare of the people of the state. If on the other hand, this stake is about the destruction and dismemberment of Manipur, it would be preposterous to expect any government of the state to endorse it.

Source: Imphal Free Press


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