The new BJP-led coalition government in Manipur is going great guns, at least so far. Under the leadership of Chief Minister N Biren Singh, the men in power are making headlines daily, and with each headline, a new and dramatic vista of policy possibility comes within frame. Even as the government completes its second month in power, the sense of public euphoria is still palpable. It does seem like a new era of restructuring and openness is beginning to unfold. Indeed, the new government’s two months of life has been eventful. Barely a week in power, it had the United Naga Council, lift its nearly five months long paralyzing blockade of the state. With it, quite surprisingly too, all the fire and brimstone over alleged splitting of ancient homelands by the creation of new administrative districts too almost as suddenly calmed down.
The first state level Shirui festival in Ukhrul organized by the BJP led coalition Government should be welcome by everyone denizens of the state with arms wide open. The initiative that aims at preserving the Shirui from extinction and exposing the tourism potential of Ukhrul district has been long over due. Ignoring the fact Shirui is the state flower of Manipur, the successive Government in the past have miserably failed to take any pragmatic measure to preserve the rare Lily found only in the Shirui hills of Ukhrul district besides developing tourist sites. One cannot deny that since its discovery in 1946 the villagers of the Shirui are the sole protectors of the lily which now is on the brink of extinction.
If only the ways of the government were above board, questions such as moral legitimacy of governance would not have been so very complicated or controversial. While we must add the new BJP-led coalition government in the state, under the stewardship of N. Biren Singh, is showing plenty of promise towards this commitment, it must be added it is sowing the seeds for future collapse of this vital legitimacy because of the manner it seems bent on breaking the law with regards to the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.
If the Northeast was a barren, uninhabited desert, any small amount spent to develop civic infrastructure here would probably have been justifiably called redundant and a waste. The script, we all know is a lot different. The Northeast is peopled, and it is not a barren desert. Yet, the myth that has been created that money is being “pumped” into the Northeast persists. The emphasis, it will again be noted, is on the word “pumped”, as if money is a liquid with which the Northeast is being flooded. The story is also motivated.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It was also a day the social media was rife with postings by practically everyone on nostalgic memories of their mothers, and this was expected in these days of the internet, when personal stuffs that would in the olden days have been reserved for personal and every exclusive diaries, are literally splashed and flaunted on public walls for one and all to read. Good or bad, we don’t know, but for people from a past generation that value privacy, it does come across somewhat disturbing that even personal childhood memories of motherly love should become material for another form of selfie portraiture. These are interesting times indeed.
The state Transport department’s notification of ‘No horn zone’ has simply turned out to be ‘Please horn zone’. In an exclusive report carried by the Imphal Free Press, the notification issued by the said department on April 27 has been reduced to a farce. Evidently both the lay public as well as the law enforcing agencies collectively break the law. None follow the no-horn rule. Security escort vehicles accompanying MLAs or ministers top the list of honking in their attempt to overtake whosoever on their way. Military and paramilitary vehicles are also among the top honkers. This wanton display of might on the road by security forces’ vehicles unfortunately to the people whom they promise to protect is a symptom of a serious attitudinal ailment within the establishment. The misuse of powers on the road by security forces needs to be contained. Next in the honker list is the diesel auto rickshaw, followed by school buses and heavy trucks and other private vehicles. Despite the notification no offenders have been booked till date. At the same time the Transport department is apparently finding hard to find ways to enforce the order first, leave aside imposition of penalty to the offenders. It may be noted that no-horn rule according to the notification applies to sensitive areas within the Imphal Municipality. Some of the prioritised areas are the road stretches along the governor and the chief minister bungalows, and also near the hospitals and educational institutions. Staff shortage is one reason cited by the Transport department in its failure in executing the order. May be it could be one valid reasons among many. Alongside filling up the required staff of the department, let it take some more time to come out with practical solutions to control the noise level.
The move of the department, however, is laudable, which could be a baby step towards controlling noise pollution in the town. As far as noise is concerned, there are many other noises other than just the vehicular horns which disturb the town’s environment. Out of those many, the Transport department must seriously think of phasing out the diesel auto rickshaw and replace it with e-rickshaw. Some Indian cities have already introduced it to control both noise and air pollutions. It seems no other cities in India have the kind of diesel auto as Imphal does. In terms of its sheer quantity and the amount of noise it creates it is just intolerable. Clearly the department has not cared to check the engine specifications and its noise level before issuing mass permits. Next are the loud trucks and buses, which also emit lethal doses of exhaust fumes, and which actual validity have long expired to ply on roads. These kinds of vehicles are plenty running with permits issued by the department. They also need to be phased out soon so as to curb noise pollution. In addition one of the latest noise pollutants is the motorcycles with extremely loud exhaust pipes, which is a flashy trend among youngsters these days. The authority concerned needs to act on this nuisance without much delay. It is worth mentioning that the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 takes into account the ambient noise levels in public places from various sources, inter-alia industrial activity, construction activity, vehicular horns and other mechanical devices that harmfully effects human health and the psychological well-being; it is considered necessary to regulate and control noise generating from these sources. Public addressing system and loud speakers are also included among the sources of noise pollution. When all is said and done, public adherence to rules and regulations for a common good is something which is very much missing in the state. As such no stone should be left unturned in creating awareness among the public by the authorities. And also inculcate a sense of good citizenship leading by examples.
Leader Writer: Senate Kh.
Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren has added another feather in his cap by resolving the Churachandpur imbroglio. The first achievement of his government was bringing an end to the indefinite economic blockade of the national highways by the United Naga Council. Whatever deals have been made under the table to achieve the solution does not matter. What matters is the agreement in black and white and that two vexed issues which have been plaguing the state since long has come to an end. The Churachandpur imbroglio was the direct fallout of the passing of three bills including the controversial Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015 by the Manipur legislative assembly on August 31, 2015. The 1951 cut-off year was a matter of concern in certain sections of the society, but a real debate on whether the three bills are really ‘anti-tribal’ or not was not simply done. A reasoned debate was lost in the cacophony of violence and war cries of the population in the hills mainly in Churachandpur district. Enraged youth and women folk came out in the streets, houses of sitting MLAs of the district were razed to ground while the bodies of the nine civilians who were killed in police action remained in state unclaimed and embalmed. Any decision on whether last rites of those killed should be performed or not was out of the hands of the families of the victims. Now, after signing of a memorandum of understanding between the government and anti-tribal bill JAC, the bodies will be finally laid to rest on May 25. Family members of the victims must have had a sigh of relief. The inner pain and suffering of pending last rites would be felt among the family members only. One remembers the pain and anguish of the family members of a boy called Sanamacha whose body is still to be recovered as he disappeared after being picked by armed forces years back. Politics aside, the unholy practice of using the dead body as a bargaining chip to achieve ends should be done away with forever, as the dead is neutral. Looking at the fine print of the memorandum of understanding signed between the JAC and the government, there is nothing new as such in it. The fate of the controversial bills has already been sealed long time back with the President of India withholding his assent. Of course, a new clause that all stakeholders would be consulted before taking a new move, has been added, like in the memorandum of understanding signed between the government and the United Naga Council in calling off the 160 day old economic blockade. Talks with UNC are still ongoing with the next round of talks slated this month. On the other hand, the Churachandpur deal has been clinched. Peace and normalcy has returned and the bad blood is diminishing, while the new government led by N Biren Singh has been able to build a good rapport with the leaders of the hills. Now is the time to start a peaceful and reasoned debate on how to bring in constitutional safeguards for protection of the identity and land of both valley and hill people without hurting the sentiments of either. Perhaps, it would be good for everyone if the new government starts the ball rolling, as the situation is ripe.
Leader Writer: Irengbam Arun