The New Government in Manipur: Enthusiasm seen, but what about context?
By Amar Yumnam
Two types of announcements by the new Government in Manipur are of interest in the sense of manifestation of the focus of governance. One relates to the announcements relating to the mountains of Manipur for holding Cabinet Meetings in the mountain District Headquarters and construction of women’s market sheds there. The second one relates to the creation of Anti-Corruption Cell and formation of a Committee to probe into the purchase and installation of CCTV cameras in Imphal.
These pronouncements do display the enthusiasm of the new government to (a) free administration from the inherited images of corruption, corruptibility and anti-common people, and (b) generate a linkage between governance and the people in the mountains of Manipur. The creation of Anti-Corruption Cell and the formation of a Committee to probe into whatever lapses there might be in the CCTV installation business relate mainly to the Catch Me, If You Can type of crimes. Naturally these steps would take time to yield results in terms of both reformative and accountability outcomes. These would require to be accompanied by many other administrative measures to lead to the expected outcomes. I would not dwell on this here today, and would leave to a later intervention in this column.
I would however like to dwell on the mountain related announcements for contextual development and personal academic commitment reasons. The existence of mountains and the inhabitancy of people there are a reality in Manipur. Besides, my primary academic orientation is on issues of development. It is a fact that the mountains in Manipur have not so far been the frame of articulation for development either by state or non-state protagonists; it has been as if space is irrelevant in thinking about transformation. Thus the focus of the new government on the mountains of Manipur breaths a fresh air into the governance orientation. Having said this I would definitely ask a question: Is it enough?
The announcements relating to the mountains are of course laudable in so far as a new thinking in the administration is salient in order to bring about a linkage between the mountains and the government interventions. But the issue of convergence possibilities and potentials has yet to be attended to. This is where the bigger challenges lie.
Now that the Cabinet Meeting would be held in the mountains and new women’s markets would be created there, the question is: What is the larger frame or approach within which these would be done? Are these the ends in themselves? I would certainly feel that these steps cannot be ends in themselves. Now it is imperative that the larger vision be evolved and put in the public domain. Spatial convergence in governance goes much beyond holding meetings and ministerial presence once in a while. The governance has to be linked with the articulation and adoption of policies with the local communities. This is easier said than done for it calls for drastic transformation of the bureaucratic habits and elite attitudes in the mountains. The top-down habits are to be replaced by contextual habits. Evolving such an atmosphere requires investing on nurturing articulation capacity, skill enhancement and evaluation skills. While doing so, the administration agents should not discount traditional knowledge and skills as irrelevant. Contextualisation and valuing the diversity are the key. There are large issues of generating credible decision-making and dependable data milieu. I am saying this despite the global concern today with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Incubation for relevant development articulation and intervention for the mountains is to be done in the mountains and not in the National Capital Region.
While talking about the construction of marketing centres for women, it would be very wrong if we perceive this as performance. There are big challenges in the generation of future production and future consumption scenarios for the mountains. The prevailing production scenarios in the mountains of Manipur is not sustainable. It does not ensure an evolutionarily enhancing quality of life for the mountain population. There is a need for generating a new production base scenario. Similarly, the prevailing consumption scenario here is definitely non-contemporary and non-futuristic. Now all these production and consumption designing efforts should be contextually relevant and capable of meeting the unfolding dynamics of international linkages with South East and East Asia.
Now while trying to converge the administration to the contextual spatial demands of development, we cannot remain blind to the inherited political economic characteristics of Manipur polity coupled by the federalism tensions. The governance today should be able to transform the behaviour of people, individuals, communities and bureaucracy, which have been imbibed during the last two decades or so. There is a fundamentality to strengthen the institutions in existence in Manipur today. The rule of law culture has to be established as possible to practise. This calls for enhancing the credibility of the institutions representing the judiciary wing of governance. The social sector institutions need to be absolutely strengthened. In this the medical colleges, liberal education colleges and the University should be made to rise to the occasion and help in building the capability of the people to meet the emerging global competition.
In fine, Manipur needs today a responsive and responsible leadership more than ever. Manipur requires today a bureaucracy converging with the needs of the population and free from the top-down attitudinal habits. Manipur calls for an administration oriented towards perceiving issues and interventions in a holistic way. Manipur demands an administration clear on the distinction between processes and outcomes. The land and her people long for healthy processes of intervention for an outcome of bright tomorrow.
(Amar Yumnam is Professor and Head: Department of Economics, Manipur University.)