Stop Saying "Manipur does not have resources"

Sapna Goshwami *

Bird eye view of Imphal Valley as seen from top of Cheiraoching :: August 29 2014
Bird eye view of Imphal Valley as seen from top of Cheiraoching in August 2014 : Pix - Deepak Oinam

A resource is a productive asset from which economic gains can be obtained. It helps increase the wealth of a state. It can be natural (raw materials and energy), capital (money, goods, and suppliers), or human (intellectual, skills, labour, etc.). Different regions across the globe have different quantity and types of resources. There are many countries with limited natural resources that have managed to become developed and successful as compared to others.

For example, Japan, which is a mountainous volcanic island prone to natural disasters, has limited natural resources, huge population, and it depends on imported raw materials. Yet this country has diversified and advanced industries which are famous in the world. It is known for automobiles, consumer electronics, shipbuilding, textiles, processed food, etc. Another instance is that of South Korea. Though over populated and reliant on imported materials, it is one of the leading industrial powerhouses in the world.

Switzerland, being a small and cold country, has very few mineral resources, save for water power. However, it makes up for this lack through its banking business, tourism, and successful and easily recognisable brands - Rolex, Nescafe, and, Nestle. Island regions like The Bahamas and Bermuda, with their respective population of 377,374, and 65,024, manage to count as wealthy nations.

The Bahamas have a booming tourism industry and also earns substantial revenue from offshore banking. As for Bermuda, where reinsurance and financial services account for 85% of the GDP, it happens to have the fourth highest per capita income in the world - 70% higher than that of the US. We may also consider the example of Andorra.

Landlocked and with just an area of 468 square kilometres, it is listed by the World Bank in the top 20 country with the highest GDP per capita. It also holds 12th position in terms of quality of life. How does a tiny country which imports most of its food manage to achieve such feats? It is a tax haven, and millions flock to the place for both touristic and business purposes.

Manipur has a size of 22,327 square kilometres, with natural vegetation occupying an area of 12,365 square kilometres. Inhabited by a population of 27, 21,756, the state is richly endowed with abundant water resources, and different varieties of plants, ranging from short and tall grasses, reeds and bamboos to big tress.

Some of the important forest resources found here are teak, pine, oak, uningthou, leihao, bamboo, cane, etc. In the hilly regions, rubber, tea, orange, cardamom, etc. are grown, while in the valley, common food crops include paddy, sugarcane, potato, tobacco, mustard, pulses, pineapple, banana, lemon, pears, peach, etc.

The state is also famous for passion fruit and numerous varieties of medicinal and herbal plants. This indicates that the state has good climatic and soil conditions suitable for agro-based industry, provided the infrastructure is properly developed and maintained.

There are ample opportunities for fishery activities, too; around one hundred and thirty species of fishes are found in Manipur. The state is also primed for hydro power, though inability to utilise the huge potential has resulted in a poor harnessing capacity of only 108.2 MW of power, with the main source of power supply in the state being derived from the Loktak Hydro Electric Project.

If the various projects in the pipeline, namely, Pabram Hydro Electric Project and Irang Hydro Electric Project in Tamenglong District, Tuivah Hydro Electric Project in Thanlon Sub-Division of Churachandpur District, etc. are realised, then shortage of power supply should not be an obstacle in the road to industrial development and other sectors that required power.

Another important sector of Manipur is the handloom sector. The skills of Manipuri women in handloom are unique and give them nationwide recognition in this sector. The colours and designs of Manipuri handmade handloom products, whether they belong to the Meitei community or the tribal, are far more attractive and elegant than the mass-produced variety sold in the market.

As per the National Handloom Census (2009-10), the state has 2.04 lakh handloom workers (5.30% of all India) and 1.90 lakh looms (8.02 % of all India). Manipur has a very high concentration of weavers and possession of loom in the country, which shows that this sector has the potential to become a factor for economic growth in the state. Handloom products produced in the state are bed sheet, curtain, towel, table cloths, garments, pillow covers, etc.

The pleasant climate and natural beauty further endows the state with solid prospects for tourism, an industry which is quickly gaining pace in terms of concrete progress. Major tourist spots are Loktak Lake, Keibul Lamjao, Andro, Sekmai, Leimaram waterfall, Kangla Fort (Imphal) Singda Dam (Imphal), Cheirao Ching (Imphal), Shirui Kashung (Ukhrul), Loukoi Pat Lake (Imphal), Khangkhui Cave (Ukhrul), and Moreh. In addition to these established places, various gardens and parks have been built in the last few years, and there are still many undiscovered places that can be developed into thriving tourist attractions.

Another important resource available in Manipur is human resources. The people of Manipur are doing quite well in the fields of games and sports, business, engineering and agricultural activities, education, arts and culture, etc.

Some of the best athletes of the state are Kunjarani Devi, Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Devendro Singh, Dingko Singh, Mirabai Chanu, etc. Famous entrepreneurs and enterprises in the state are Ragesh Keisham (Founder of SuiGeneris Inc), Jina Khumujam (herbal healer) , Nongmaithem Ranjit Meitei, Potshangbam Devakanta (succeeded in preserving 100 traditional varieties of paddy), Hanjabam Shubra Devi (Proprietor of Meira Foods) , Kangla Food Products Private Limited, Thangjam Joykumar (Likla), M.S. Lairikyengbam Enterprises(YES), Roshnikumar Yambem (Globizs), Kiranjit Sharma (BK Flute Industry), Classic Group Hotels, etc.

There are eminent professors in Manipur University and colleges. There are institutions and group of people who are trying to lift the arts of Manipur, namely, Manipur Dramatic Union (MDU) (1930), Aryan Theatre (1935), Chitrangada Natya Mandir (1936), Society Theatre (1937), Rupmahal (1942), Cosmopolitan Dramatic Union (1968), and the Chorus Repertory Theatre of Ratan Thiyam (1976), Shumang Leela groups, etc.

Additionally, the presence of various ethnic group means the culture of the state is decorated by vibrant festivals, and folk and classical dances. Despite all these resources, Manipur is not able to grow at the desired rate. The Gross Domestic Product of the state has increased at a compound annual growth rate of 5.8 percent between 2004-05 and 2010-11, but it is lower than the all India average of 8.6 percent and 6.3 percent average of North East region during the same period.

The number of educated job seekers has increased. If the leaders, policy makers, and policy implementer implement the policies effectively and formulate policies and plans relevant to the people and places of the state, then Manipur has great potential of becoming a developed region.

Mainly, it is the political leaders and bureaucrats who gradually led to most of the loss of resources. Manipur can learn from a small and nearby state like Sikkim, which has an area of only 7,096 square kilometres, yet this state manage to contribute 86 percent of cardamom in India. It accounts for the largest area and the highest cardamom production in the country. This is in spite of the fact that most of the regions in Sikkim are unfit for agriculture.

Moreover, this state has ranked 4th in 2014-15 in terms of Gross State Domestic Product per capita nominal (while Manipur ranked 29th on the list of Indian states and union territories by GSDP per capita). It can thus be concluded that the state has resources and also has great potential of becoming a leading state in India given that people start to think and act rationally.

* Sapna Goshwami wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a Research Scholar, Dept of Economics, Manipur University
This article was posted on March 28, 2017.

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