TODAY -

Japan Express and Meitei-pung
- Part 2 -

Erendro Leichombam & Anand Laishram *

Glimpses of Japan :: November 2010
Glimpses of Japan in November 2010 :: Pix - Rajkumari Sunita



After World War II, there was an even greater urgency to improve productivity. In 1964, the Shinkansen bullet train service was started, a full decade before high speed railway service was introduced in Europe. These high speed trains led to enormous time savings, united producers and suppliers, brought the country closer together and overall gave a tremendous boost to the economy.

The impetus behind all these has been to save time and get things done faster. Thus we "can conclude that the Japanese punctuality is cultural, rather than genetic, and therefore, is something that can be learnt, cultivated and ingrained over time.

What about Manipur? We surely could use some punctuality. We need an alteration in the people's notion of time; often humorously dismissed concepts such as "Meitei Pung" or "Indian Slow Time," won't cut it if we wish to see a more economically self-reliant Manipur. We need to perceive time as a limited and valuable resource.

Using tardiness as a status symbol is regressive thinking. It has been found, in chronically late countries all around the world, that the leaders, the bureaucrats and other VIPs are usually the most notorious latecomers. They try to assert their "upper class status" by being late, almost throwing their weight around, so to say, to drive home a point that their time is more valuable than others'.

This has got to stop. The leaders, more than anything, need to set an example. To dismantle VIP culture, taking down Red Beacons from their vehicles is not enough. If anything, leaders must stop taking people's time for granted.

Time wasted is more detrimental than we casually imagine them to be. If we simply endeavor to reduce time wastage, we will tremendously improve our economic reality, not to mention the minimization of many negative social externalities. For example, if we do a relatively simple economic analysis of the cost of time wasted in Bandhs in Manipur we arrive at a staggering figure.

Our annual per capita, according to the 2013-14 data, was INR 47,414 with a GSDP of INR 14,324 Crores (Source: Directorate of Economics and Statistics Manipur) indicating that each person in the state roughly makes about INR 20/hour or INR 159/day.

Therefore, even a relatively non-sophisticated calculation will point that we suffer a collective loss of roughly INR 48 Crores for every Bandh day, not- taking into account the multiplier effect of such economic loss. In 2016, Manipur had 116 days of general" strikes and bandhs (Source: Manipur IGP, Intelligence Report), costing us roughly INR 5,568 Crores from our coffers; funds sufficient enough to build our crumbling roads and bridges many times over, funds enough to build world class schools, and universities, or invest in building a competitive entrepreneurship ecosystem for the next generation.

Imagine this: INR 5,568 cores is almost 55 times Manipur's education budget for 2016-17. With this wasted amount Manipur could literally send a Mangalyaan-esque mission to Mars every month throughout the year! For large capital accumulation eventually, a small seed capital is sufficient.

By calling bandhs, blockades, and boycotts, we bum our own economic future. By failing to invest smartly for the future, our policy advisors and political leadership blunt the economic enlargement of Manipur. It is quite sad indeed that instead of focusing on increasing the size of our collective economic pie, our so-called leadership and their nexus are often seen clamoring for small pieces of the existing minuscule pie.

It is not a surprise that short-sighted vision breeds limited goals— in the larger scheme of things, the big picture, what we do see as corruption in Manipur is almost like petty thievery!

In conclusion, we can say that in a society where most people are usually late, people don't see the value of being on time as others are generally expected to be late anyway, thus propagating a vicious cycle. Au contraire, if everyone is punctual, it makes little sense to show up late or to procrastinate.

Therefore, we need to disrupt the vicious cycle of unpunctuality in Manipur. The more people become punctual, the more others will be incentivised to be punctual as well. This cultural shift is not easy but is definitely possible. The youth are more likely to be the agents for such a change in our community.

It has been 9 weeks that we've conducted our Sunday meetings, WMs as we call them, where we discuss various issues related to Manipur and the role that the youth can play to usher our society in a fresher direction. We start and end our sessions strictly on time, each Sunday, partly to experiment and also partly to initiate a culture of punctuality.

Many youths who have attended these WMs consistently express their joys of being on time and of being punctual in other areas of their lives too. Some felt extremely empowered when they found themselves to be the first to arrive, on time, for social events happening elsewhere in Manipur, regardless of the fact that these said events seldom stick to the schedule.

Needless to mention, we've all been to events, at some point, where things don't begin as scheduled. But these youths have vowed and, to our pleasant surprise, have maintained, a strict discipline vis a vis time.

May the event be small or big, formal or informal, may it be fancy or simple, let's give it the discipline and respect it deserves: starting and ending on time.

May such small steps inspire the younger generation to aspire a more disciplined and more conscious living, thereby infusing a larger counter-narrative to our prevailing casual attitude towards time, such as that of "Meitei-pung."

When a society seeks "change" it often considers "change" to be impersonal, something that is provided from without. We have to realise that "change" actually begins within.

The fact is macro "change" starts when small changes are adopted and aggregated at micro levels—at individual levels. And changing our attitude towards Time is perhaps one of the most powerful ways to contribute directly to the change we seek in our homeland.

Concluded

*** The article is an excerpt from PRJA's weekly discussion meetings - Wakhaloi Meepham


* Erendro Leichombam & Anand Laishram wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on June 04, 2017.


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