E-Pao! EI - Brain-drain and Manipuris

Brain-drain and Manipuris?

By: Victoria *

Greetings fellow-Manipuris.

I am tempted to put down a "thought" that has been in my head for quite sometime. Earlier, I was too lazy to put down the "thought" into words.

Sometime was not sure how productive or a good attempt it will turn out to be. But dear people, the multi problems (unending and increasing problems) and the snail pace progress of our state has indeed become a major cause of concern even for a lazy person like me!!!

Recently, I saw Manipur after some years of busy academic schedule at the university and was I glad to see some visible changes!

Of course, I am talking about the one and only fly-over that all of us are awaiting for its grand opening, the mobile phones, the demolition in progress to widen the roads, most of all the Manipur University where new buildings and new lanes are on the way of construction.

My Ma took me to the Kids Garden (ah! Moms..we will always be kids for them no matter how old we are!) and the recently discovered waterfall at Leimaram and introduced to me as the new places worth visiting, apart from the old time favourite picnic spots of Lakoi Pat, Lok Tak, Sendra etc.

I found the new places refreshing but my old time favourite boating lake i.e. Lakoi Pat was in a bad shape. The vicinity of the lake and the lake itself looked so dull and dirty.

I believe there is hardly any sincere effort going on to at least maintain if not enhances the beauty of the place. Probably the government is too busy trying to maintain political stability and to survive in the chaotic, problem prone society of ours to ensure accomplishment of the half started measures and steps!

And on the other hand, it seems we are parting with civic sense as something of an alien concept not applicable in our state! Hence, the litters in and around the poor lake.

You all must be thinking where is the "thought' which I mentioned in my very first sentence.

Instead you are finding me complaining about the obvious things. Dear friends, please continue reading as you will soon find out why I was beating around the bush.

Actually, I am trying to highlight a problem in the already problems bounded state and perhaps, suggesting some measures which is wholly non-political and unofficial.

Manipur, with her inherited problems and the new problems, is heading toward a position where none of us are comfortable with. The state seems so suffocating after coming back from a more developed and peaceful region- more so from a metropolitan.

So many things we are left desired in the state, of a well equipped library, a cyber zone, of a peaceful evening in a cinema hall, a walk with your family after dinner or a place where you would like to take your parents and kids..The common complains of someone in every family of the inability to manage a job, of stories of unemployment effecting a family miserably.

The increasing number of raids and sengtokchabas of sex-workers and of morality, ethics being questioned seems to be a result of a wider problem i.e. of a very weak economy(not the only reason,though). The increase in the number of young people falling victims of drugs and false glamour is pointing toward a sad future of the society.

These problems are best understood by many people (both the authorized and the unauthorized) within the state. The effectiveness and sensibility of the measures undertaken by them is another area of debate though. The people are at least aware of these problems and somehow are trying to provide solutions (though most of them seem to be of short term measures)..

A very important area of concern which seems yet to be formally recognized as a problem is the exodus of the intellectual group of people. Every year a large number of knowledge and career seekers move outside the state. Given the quality of education and the environment of the state, we can be sure that the number will be increasing all the more.

The already economically weak state is drained off with the outflow of income to support this group outside the state. Recently, a group of people pushed out of the job scarce land, with the sole aim of earning is also thronging the metros. This group with the skilled professionals' income can be seen as inflow of income.

However, the ratio between the outflow and the inflow of income seems to be of a huge gap. The main agent of the major portion of the outflow seems to be the students. This huge investment is productive for the individual as well as for the state when they succeed in achieving their aims \goals. However, it will become unfortunate for the state if once this section of people plan to migrate across the state (more so if it's the permanent migration).

Sidelining the financial contributions from them what becomes a matter of anxiety is the 'brain-drain'.

The exodus of skill professionals would mean lack of the same in the near future. No place can do well without this group of people. This truth has made many developing countries to devise ways to tap the skills of the Diasporas.

The African countries especially South Africa has come up with many mechanisms to make the Diasporas contribute in the development of the country. Same goes with India. The Parvasi Bharti Samelan organized every year on 9th January is to keep in touch with the NRIs and the PIOs.

Since they have the capital and power their connection will prove useful for India. This holds true of a state, a region. Though it might not seem the right time to come out with an official initiation to tap the skills of our fellowmen and it might be argued that their number is very small, yet we should see the number of people leaving the state every new academic session. In the long run, the number of this migrated professional group will be huge too.

The exodus cannot be halted until the government, both at the state and central levels earnestly begin to improve the quality of living in the state. For this quality living a secured environment, a secured job, opportunity, quality education etc are required. This process though initiated will take some unknown time limit to materialize.

Meanwhile the state will be drained off of human resources without fail. Thus it becomes necessary to introduce awareness among the youth from the early stage of their responsibility toward the state. It has been well said by our late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that people will never forget their rights but duties. We too by becoming a part of the 'brain drain' tend to forget our duty toward the state.

Friends, don't we have the duty to contribute the minimum toward the development of our worn out state? The development stuck up as a sandwich between the various internal and external factors needs some push from outside the state too. I believe even a mild nudge will bring the little difference which in the future may begin to turn the Wheel of Change.

As I was trying to understand as to what should be the role of people like me who are still pursuing their studies, yet to become a part of the earning lots, and with no time and interest for active participation in the discussions\protests of the problems organized now and then by activists, I came across this article Reversing Africa's 'brain drain' by Gumisal Mutume in the Africa Recovery issue. Many approaches were discussed. I found one very interesting and applicable approach for us and also for every Manipuri.

The approach talks of every citizen to become 'ambassadors' of the country. If we consider this approach at our state level it would mean, we should regard ourselves as 'ambassadors' of our state and culture.

An ambassador is the representative. Thus by becoming 'ambassadors', we represent our culture, history and the state. As 'ambassadors' what you and me can do is to generate curiosity of our beautiful landscape, sceneries, hills, lakes, the floating island, the beautiful history and the state being home to multi tribes and people from various parts of the country.

We can boast of the state as a mini-India justifying unity in diversity which India proudly claims of to the world. This is what is called the mouth-marketing. This will positively promote tourism in the state indirectly and of course, enhances our image.

As students, we have direct contacts with the intellectual community of the country. Some of us are lucky enough to have audience with the best of the best in many fields. The top universities, professional colleges etc. are easily accessible to us and we come across many people belonging to different places. Some become our friends, some acquaintances.

They are the right person whom you can start promoting our state. Let us make people know us first; respect us for our beautiful nature, thoughts and beautiful culture. The identity crisis question can be solved to a great extent once we are successful in this mission. This will also automatically lead to public participation at the national level whenever an issue of concern arises in the state.

Dear young people, let us be role models of a highly cultured society and let people know us and the state as a cultured, progressive group of people. You represent your state. If you are respected and admired, your state follows automatically. You are expected to perform this role of an ambassador while pursuing your studies and building up a career.

This is not asking much of you. This responsibility will definitely make you familiar with the process of contributions in any possible way towards the betterment of the state. In the future, when a bigger role is demanded from you, you will find it difficult not to accept it as you have made yourself aware of your duty toward the state from an early stage.

This model that I strongly believe in will bring changes, positive changes for the state. It would seem too simple and something to laugh off to many of us. But friends, this is the most practical and easiest model to begin with and survives with. This can be looked at as a perennial contribution from the 'Manipuri Diasporas' supplemented by other possible and concrete contributions.

We have a long way to go and a colossal responsibility to build up a progressive peaceful state before we can sit down and rest. The fear of a regressive turn is not far away if awareness and solutions are not taken up earnestly. Brain drain will definitely quicken regression, if an alternative solution is not provided. This realization has made me to write down this article and have tried to put up a simple yet effective solution. Once if you all agree with the existence of the problem of brain drain, we all can start a forum or initiation to have serious discussions on this topic.

The state mark by failing economy, high unemployment, human rights abuses, armed conflict and inadequate social service have made many of us reluctant to return to this politically and economically unstable region. But no reason is strong enough to make us run away without even contributing a morsel to the place which has given you and me the identity we hold today. Let us try working out mechanisms to support the process of development and reduce the drain from the state wherever we are.

Tapping the knowledge and skills of our fellow professionals based beyond the state would be another important step. It is difficult but yet not possible. This would be a direct immediate contribution. Let me cite an example of a similar effort by the South African network of Skills Abroad (SANSA).

Through its website, it invites professional South Africans to sign up. These professionals are expected to train their South African counterparts or assist them to conduct research. They could facilitate business contacts and transmit information on research results not available in South Africa. This approach is working successfully under SANSA. I am sure; this approach will have no reason to fail when we apply it in our region though modified according to the regional demands.

I am sure many of us will be coming out with better, workable approaches to tap the skills of our people who might never come back to the region again owing to reasons they best understand.

Physical relocation though some radicals might suggest anytime when the problem of drain begin pressing, will be impractical and inappropriate. Freedom of an individual and human right is the norm of today's world. Everyone is free to choose and decide where to settle down.

So, what I am suggesting is that wherever we are, we should contribute to the development of the state by being as "ambassadors" of our culture and state on the one hand. And through forums, networking, organizations etc. we can have a formal platform to come together and contribute our skills' utility for our people and the state.

The state authority might take time to recognize the importance of such contributions, as they are tight up in solving the multiple problems, as to have time and resources to think about the future. Let us play our role as dutiful citizens and execute our possible parts without waiting for any government initiations to bring relieve to the problem infected state.

A better state would mean a better home for our little ones and perhaps their will be no reason to leave this beautiful place unlike many of us who are forced to move out by the prevailing conditions.

In the line of the approach that I have chosen to suggest, I find the Eastern Quarterly run by a group of scholars from Delhi, a step toward such contributions. The staff of the magazine deserves to be lauded and we should encourage them to carry on such precious contributions.

I hope, I have been successful in sharing my view of the need to stop the 'brain drain' without compromising an individual's freedom of choice.

Read Readers Comments to this article here.

Victoria contributes to regularly . She can be contacted at victy111 (at) yahoo (dot) com. This article was webcasted on November 28th, 2006.

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