Socio-Economic Situation In Manipur: Poverty, budget and all that
By Amar Yumnam
One political economic characteristic of Manipur so far has been the absolute absence of thinking about the people of Manipur and of orientation towards the contextual articulation of development needs by both the bureaucracy and the political class in Manipur right from 1951 to 2014 except for a short period after attaining Statehood in 1972. This short period of drive for regional boost was when a regional party was at the helm of affairs of the province. The oldest political party of the country has been in power at both the provincial and the union levels but for short periods in between. The biggest contribution this party has done has been the enactment of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act way back in 1958, and yet there has been no contribution to the evolution and establishment of contextually relevant development interventions for the region as yet by this party and her government. The significance of the emergence of a powerful government at the union level and headed by a party other than the oldest political party of the country lies here.
Before we come to this significance, let us take note of the contents of the Report of the Expert Group to Review the Methodology for Measurement of Poverty headed by C. Rangarajan which was submitted to the government in June 2014. According to the estimates given by this Expert Group, as of 2011-12, Manipur has the second highest proportion of poor people below the poverty line at 46.7 per cent (the first being Chattisgarh at 47.9 per cent) with the total being 12.9 lakh persons as compared to the national percentage of 29.5; even the next poorest State, Bihar, has proportions more than five percentage points lower than that of Manipur. When it comes to poverty among the urban population, Manipur tops the list. The situation is slightly better among the rural population, but I would like to hasten here that this is because of the consumption basket approach in the poverty measurement and definitely not because of relative higher income. This is what has been achieved by the government of Manipur for the people of Manipur. The head of the people has been so apologetic even for a little over twenty kilometres stretch of road linking the headquarters of Chandel district to a National Highway. This has been the characteristic of the governments of the province with all their unwillingness and unpreparedness for articulating and devising development interventions alive to the contextual realities of the land and people of Manipur; it has been a case of lying down with dogs to get up with fleas. Unfortunately the political degradation has been such in Manipur that the rock will not come to rule even if the rudder does not rule.
But the time is now to leave this policy lethargy behind and think afresh; let us start ab initio for it is better late than never. The latest Expert Group has revealed that poverty scenario in Manipur is indeed bad. Here the silver lining is that the latest budget of the Union Government has shown the light for contextual regional thinking to frame policies for social advancement. Starting from the University of Sports to the general approach for encouraging entrepreneurship in the rural areas, there are lots of hints and approach from which the provincial government can draw lessons for initiating a new regime of governance possessing the principle of contextual articulation for development interventions. This is fundamental for Manipur today. There is an imperative now for a massive transformation in the quality, preoccupation and orientation of the polity in Manipur from one of den of rent-seekers to one of developmentalists. Manipur has been moving increasingly towards a highly violent society where both state and non-state agents have free runs. The state agents rejoice when the traditional as well as contemporary agents resort to violence and settle an issue without realising that this is the surest way to stunt the emergence of a modern lawful state. The fact of modern development history anywhere is that unlawful states will never flourish. The non-state agents too rejoice in the collapse of the state machinery not because it would be good for the people but because it creates a convenient milieu for the rent seeking by the covert and overt individuals associated with them. Time is now to admit the truth, shame the devil and initiate thinking for the land and people of Manipur by all.