Problems, hope and Imphal 2
There could be no better time than now to write a continuation to my article on Imphal (http://insideoutsight.blogspot.com/search/label/hills%20fish%20and%20imphal).. What better time to beckon people to look 'Northeast' towards this beautiful valley I call home than now when its people are grappling with blockades, development problems and what not..
|The Loktak Lake May 2011|
So in the first segment on Imphal, I talked briefly about the food, the roads, how money could get you anything you wanted there, and also why you must go there..
Well in this one, I will (*try to*) talk about the kinds of problems we face back home.. I add the *try to* because I really do not know much about the issues myself.. The only reason for me knowing a little more than some of you would be because I was born there.. I have not studied much about it.. Studying in Dehradun for eight years (in Central India) means you only read one line in a History text book about Imphal (that too along the lines of 'Subhas Chandra managed to reach Imphal with the Japanese during the Second World War).. Of course doing an Undergraduate degree in Manchester and then now a Masters in London has not exactly helped in actually learning more about its intricacies.. Whatever little I know is because of my father who gives me long informative lectures on what's going on, and of course what I see with my own eyes whenever I go home during my holidays..
The first issue which I think we face is the fragmentation in society.. Manipur as a State has diverse communities living in and around the valley- There are the Meiteis in the Valley, and then the tribals in nooks and corners of the hills which surround it.. There has historically been a sort of disconnect between the two sections which I think greatly disrupts the peace of the region.. Diversity within diversity- as in diversity as it is, in terms of how different Manipuris are from the rest of India, and then diversity in terms of how different Meiteis are from the rest of Manipur makes it a difficult task in balancing out the sides..There is always a sort of blamegame going on, with one blaming the other for not looking their way and so on..
|Settlement by the Loktak (April 2011)|
The Centre is not helping this case and improving the situation by constantly ignoring this part of the country and bringing about measures to keep all factions united and happy.. I do understand what a difficult task this would be but they could atleast pretend like they are trying.. In an attempt to get their voices heard, the people have therefore resorted to insurgency and means of blockades, bandhs etc which only worsens the living conditions..
There is also the issue of (lack of) development in the State of Manipur.. There is great potential in the valley for development purposes- Manipur isn't exactly resource poor.. But due to the lack of infrastructure (electricity, roads etc), it has not been able to rise up to its full potential.. There are just two national highways which trouble makers often blockade to make their demands heard... These highways are almost like the wind pipe, which when blocked, literally chokes the valley..
|Long queues for water (April 2011)|
As with every poor region, there is the case of corruption with wealth and power residing in hands of only a few..Whatever few attempts are made to develop the state are futile as most of the funds are pocketed by politicians, bureaucrats and insurgents with little trickling down to the people.
Moreover, it has not helped the case of Imphal that most of the youth flee to other parts of India for education and employment leaving the valley. Many of them do not return at all, leaving the region in the hands of less educated people.. Therefore you still prevalent in the valley the practice of actually paying to get a job instead of getting in on the basis of meritocracy.. And if someone had to pay a huge sum of money for a job, it only makes sense that he will want that money back once he has the post- bribes galore!
I recently attended a public seminar in LSE on Aid and development in Africa, and was struck by how identical the problems faced in Sub Saharan Africa were to that in Manipur..
Problems of governance, coupled with corruption? Check.
Problems of lack of development? Check.
And the solutions the speakers gave at this seminar I guess could apply to Manipur as well..
There was the solution of community led development where instead of handing projects straight to the top, you focus on the community level and give people incentives to develop their own regions.. There is no one who would know better what people want than the people themselves..
There was also the solution of having diaspora-led development where you have those who went away for education or employment come back and improve the region themselves.. Of course for this to work would require the efforts of the government- whether it being in encouraging meritocracy based selections for jobs, discouraging the rampant practice of bribery and corruption etc..
|Imphal valley April 2011|
In the midst of all the bad things that is happening in Manipur, there is still hope for things to turn around.. There is hope in me that one day people here will learn to look beyond their narrow differences and begin the process of change, that one day people will realize that they are lagging behind in terms of development, and will want to catch up.. That one day, people will realize that instead of fighting with each other, they are better off focusing on the good things.. That sometimes to get your voice heard, you have to climb higher than the others, and then speak.. No one can ignore those who are above them in the ladder of life..
I still believe, inspite of it all.. There is still hope...
The link I have posted is an article in The Times of India about the crisis in Manipur..