Causes & solutions of unemployment in Manipur

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *

Manipur is strategically located in India's northeast. It is the gate way to the economies of Southeast Asia. Manipur is multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and multi-religious, comprising of the Meiteis (the majority ethnic group), Kukis, Pangals (Manipuri Muslims) and Nagas. The Meiteis & Meitei Pangal are mainly concentrated in the Imphal valley, the Kukis and Nagas in the hills.

Manipur may be classified into two distinct physical regions-outer rings of rugged hills and narrow valleys and the inner area of flat plains, with all associated land forms. These two areas are not only distinct in respect of physical features but also in terms of development and employment, wherein the valley area is much better off in both these contexts.

According to the 2011 census, Manipur has a total population of 27, 21,756 lakhs, with 26.18% in urban areas and remainder 73.82% in rural areas. The literacy rate stands at 79.85% ,higher than the national average of 74.04%,of that ,male literacy stands at 86.49% and female literacy at 73.17%.

However,despite the high literacy rate, Manipur as compared to the rest of the country, remains a socio-economically backward state. The economy of Manipur is characterized by high rate of unemployment and poverty, low capital formation, inadequate infrastructural facilities, geographically isolation, communication bottlenecks and practically no industrialization.

Agriculture continues to be the mainstay of the economy with more than 70% of the population dependent on it for livelihood. The employment situation in Manipur is a matter of concern, with most of it being a rural phenomenon. The number of persons on the live register of the employment exchange rose from 2.28 lakh as on 30th June 1993 to 7.14 lakhs as on 30th June 2012, which could be much more than this because many are still not registered in the employment exchange.

The high rate of unemployment, particularly among educated youth is due to the lack of industrial base, the absence of private enterprise and limited employment opportunity in the government sector. It is open-secret that every government job has a price tag. Those boys and girls whose parents cannot afford large amounts to be paid as bribe are disillusioned and become susceptible to anti-national propaganda.

Geographical isolation, political hopelessness, lack of infrastructure development, lack of incentive for private enterprises participation and poor trade opportunities could be the reason why educated youth seek financial security by joining in many illegal activities like drug trafficking, sex rackets, imposter as insurgent and imposed financial demands to many. In fact, considering the large number of educated unemployed, such unlawful, illegal and immoral practices/activities are fast emerging as an alternate and lucrative means of unemployment.

Such is the demand of government jobs in Manipur that in2011, when the state government employed some 1000 men to form an armed Village Defense Force(VDF),it had received application from some 17,000 people who were either graduates or postgraduates whereas state was looking to hire who had not even completed school.

Lack of access to quality and affordable education as well as vocational training institute outside the capital city of Imphal has often led to students from other parts of the state dropping out before acquiring any meaningful educational qualification. The report of the Higher Education Commission has noted this glaring disparity between Imphal valley and the rest of the state.

The education infrastructure is primitive and quality education is almost non-existent in areas outside Imphal. This disparity has affected higher education adversely, particularly in the hills where even the basic infrastructure and minimum teaching staff are found lacking. There is also a serious deficiency of Math and science teachers in schools, especially those located in tribal areas.

Hence local students are unable to compete in state and national level competitive exams. There is an urgent need to strengthen the educational infrastructure in Manipur to provide quality and inclusive education. The graduates' courses currently available in various colleges within Manipur are of the traditional nature, which is about learning basic science or arts or commerce.

Such degree do not throw open many employment avenues outside or within the state, adding to the already high rate of educated unemployment. The course content, therefore need restructuring to refocus efforts at application oriented learning, resulting in skilled manpower for employment in emerging industries. Therefore effective implementation of skill development and training programs also need to be prioritized.

There is also the need to create avenues for absorbing trained and skilled manpower in suitable jobs without which it would be difficult to wean the youth away from the lure of earning easy income through many illegal and immoral activities.

Manipur, with its salubrious climate, topographical mystique, cultural heritage and sublime natural beauty has an enormous tourism potential. The state has immense tourism and commercial potential and is destined to become a commercial hub and a tourist hotspot in South-East Asia. Thus, developing Manipur's tremendous tourism potential could help generate a range of employment opportunities for the local people.

However to attract the attention of national and international tourist, it is imperative to ensure a safe and secure environment along with necessary investment in building a modern hospitality infrastructure. The socio-economic development of Manipur will also largely depend on the promotion of small and medium scale industries and encouragement to local entrepreneurs.

The scope for large scale industries too exists in the agro-horticulture, bamboo, cement, green marble and power sectors. Investment in these sectors could help generate direct and indirect employment in setting up various forward and backward linkages to support service sector units. At present, the role of the private sector in the state is minimal.

Most of the private participants choose to stay out of Manipur due to lack of infrastructure support and security concerns. The government needs to focus on developing local skills and capacities as part of the self-employment program (SEP) to harness the potential of the youths in Manipur. One area that certainly needs to be tapped into is the ability of the youth to communicate in good English, hence developing BPO or front office or air hostess kind of skills.

Manipur is known for its sporting talents especially in the fields of boxing, football, archery, mixed martial arts etc. Many young sportspersons find it easier to prove their sporting talent by representing another state at national and international levels due to lack of adequate training and sporting facilities in the state. The creation of sports facilities at villages, block and district levels will help in keeping the youth engaged in sports, a constructive and positive activity thus weaning them away from alcoholism, drug addiction and juvenile delinquency.

Similarly, the cultural talents in the field of music, dance, art and cinema are unique to the state. If this culture is preserved and given the exposure that it deserves, many youth could benefit from it by the employment opportunities arising out of it. Manipur is blessed with a climate suitable for producing a variety of agricultural produce and that is the reason why farmers grow cash crops, fruits and vegetables in large quantities.

Hilly areas are conducive for the farming of vegetables and fruits, organic farming has already commenced in many hill areas of the state. Many agro-horticultural crops are potential export commodities. The agro-based industry includes fruits preparations, juice concentrate plants, herbal plants, processing of spices and so on. These farm produce along with bamboo shoots are used for commercial purpose.

Since the cultivated land is under 10% of the total land area in Manipur, optimizing the use of the balance 90% land and newer/ innovative methods to increase production in the wake of expansion of the residential areas would help in addressing the unemployment issue indirectly.

Unlike other states, Manipur has restricted publicity mechanism and as a result even the daily newspapers reach a day later in the remote interiors and hills districts. This has caused many youths to lose opportunities of getting a job due to lack of awareness of recruitment/ interview/selection program. There is an urgent requirement of setting up job fairs and job fair etc. at such areas.

Unemployment, especially among the educated youth of Manipur is a problem both of the individual as well as the society around that person. It psychologically, financially, emotionally and materially affects the youths and their families. It brings in a sense of dejection, inferiority and hopelessness among the youths. Due to frustration, anger and disenchantment, youth often succumb to other alternatives including alcoholism, drug addiction, robbery, murder and suicide as well as joining other illegal and immoral activities for easy money.

There is an urgent need to take concrete steps to address the issue before it goes out of hand. In fact, it should force us to think what ails the education system and employment avenues in Manipur? The problem of educated unemployment is mainly two folds, firstly scarcity of government jobs and secondly the virtual lack of any other employer in Manipur.

Improving infrastructure in general and promoting human resource development with effective and people-oriented governance, is thus critical to ushering peace in Manipur and other parts of Northeast India. Creating additional employment opportunities to help the immense human and natural potential could go a long way in addressing the aspirations of the unemployed youth of the region in general.

* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for
The writer is a Sr.Faculty, JCRE Global College, Babupara, Imphal and can be reached at sjugeshwor7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on March 18 2021.

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