TODAY -

Pure Men, Silly Laws

N. Arunkumar *



Civic amenities comprise a wide range of services that endeavor to improve the quality of existence of a town, city, or state and also reflect the level of prosperity, sophistication and tidiness of its people.

Manipur too strives to be counted among the elite states of the world and we do not think of ourselves as second to anyone in a whole lot of things, tangible or intangible, and that includes all such frills that establish themselves as commonplace in the modern world of our times.

From telecommunications to transport, we are constantly on the look out for those elements that can boost not only our lifestyles but also augment our individual status quo in society. Many of these modern marvels or toys, if you wish to call them, have been provided to us due to our keen attitude to stay abreast of the world around us.

We are a remote region, but that remoteness is simply figurative when looked at from a narrow perspective today. We could have easily been the centre of the globe, had our achievements been far spectacular than the ones to which we lay humble claims today. However, that is not the point that I am trying to drive at, here.

I wish to highlight the misuse of modern amenities by us, which insult our sensibilities and credibility severely. For one, just look at the mess that we have come across in the matter of a simple handy device like the mobile phones. Ever since the time these little toys came into our lives, it seems as though we have welcomed a little devil into our lifestyles almost instantly.

The services provided by the network was far from satisfactory, from the word go. In fact, BSNL (Bhai Sahab Nahi Lagega) was the first network to have entered the field with mobile phones here in Manipur and the service provided by them was atrocious, though it was said to be the most coveted network in other parts of the country for their reach and reliability. In Manipur, it went kaput, from the day it was commissioned. Most of us felt like throwing away the handsets in disgust, even.

I also recall that a number of people went ahead and did just that, so as to demonstrate their utter disgust with the Cellone services. Thereafter came other private players into the picture, services marginally improved, and things began to look healthier in the mobile phones services sector. However, now here we are once again, back to square one.

It seems that this contemporary helpful gadget has been so roughly misused by our brothers and sisters, that the government is mulling over the discontinuation of mobile phones in the state entirely. I understand that some pre - paid connections have already been taken off the air completely, as it had been most abused by the wicked elements within our society.

Many people still do not answer their cell phones at all, if the number reflected on the handset window is unknown to them. It could be a call from the nether world, coolly and calmly informing you of the fact that they have honored you with this call as they need you to contribute meekly to them for their war against the tiny Indian Army.

As tiny as the second largest standing territorial army in the world today. Their leaders, who are directing this battle from foreign shores need the money to support their humble life styles and more humble intentions of winning freedom for you. So, if you do not dare to humor them, then your date with your creator is more or less guaranteed sooner than later.

Such calls had become so extensive, that the comfort of a pre - paid phone itself needed to be taken away from us. That's the beauty of it all. Today, getting a mobile connection in Manipur is not an easy task, but illegally one can always lay his hands on a variety of SIM cards from all service providers. The credibility of a Manipuri subscriber has thus taken a heavy pasting in the eyes of the rest of the country. Is it a dignity that we can be proud of?

Then, look at the chaos created in the market area of Imphal, the only commercially dynamic region in the whole of the state, if we can call ourselves as commercially enterprising folks at all. There is a blanket ban on autorickshaws from entering the market now, apparently to put an end to various forms of brutal attacks on business establishments in the area.

This highly unreasonable solution has affected many business enterprises so immensely that some forms of commerce have almost come to zilch. A case of noble intentions going against the belief of nobility, that is. How can a consumer heave heavy goods from the messy unapproachable market lanes to the main roads, in order to cart those goods home, without a suitable autorickshaw available at close call?

Is it a sensible solution to a problem that is on hand in our society? It has had repercussions that go against the principles of business ethics. Moreover, the hilarious part of it is that the non - descript police hawaldar on duty at the entrance to the market area is forever obliging to let you pass through on a small consideration of as little as five rupees greased on his palms.

This system is running like as though it has been blessed with legal sanctity. The cop on duty perhaps has to bribe even his officers to get posted at that all important entrance spot, with a lathi in his hands, simply to stuff his pockets with soiled notes of all hues from anyone who ventures into the market in an autorickshaw. It has created another conduit for corruption in our society, that's all.

A friend of mine, who was visiting from outside the state saw this arrangement and was astonished. He innocently declared that anything like this was never heard of in other parts of the country, that autorickshaws are banned from market areas. He further added that it was perhaps put into effect in order to make money from a basic rights of the people.

The freedom to move around in any market and get things for their ordinary existence is blatantly compromised here, although that is a fundamental right in a democracy, and all in the name of security. But, it is woefully true that attacks still happen, no matter what is done to prevent them. Intelligence failure on the part of law enforcement is conveniently passed on to the people, though it is one more convenience taken away from us. Who is to blame for this mess?

Is it the Indian government, our own state government or our own insouciance to civic discipline? What is it that ails the Manipuri psyche to quietly tolerate all kinds of indiscretions within our society silently. We seem to shout ourselves hoarse at enemies far away from us, but close at hand we are sort of, meek and acquiescent.

Our own devils devour us ruthlessly from within us, and we still let it cut off our sense of dignity completely, without a whimper. My friend was right in his observation and I retorted with a sheepish grin of non - commitance. I did not have the heart to agree or even disagree.

Is it not the case with most of us? We simply grin in hidden shame, at most things which we understand are not normally seen in other places on earth. A real enactment of the title, Crouching Tiger Hidden Lion, or is it a sheep in lion's clothing? Whatever you say, our sense of submissiveness to these atrocities heaped on us with regular intensity is so chronic that we have completely stopped thinking anything about it.

Like the HIV, our psyches have lost its immunity to these violations on our fundamental rights. Take the case of the latest in the series of our ignominous civil acts, the rule of helmets for two wheeler riders. It is another jamboree now in the streets of Imphal.

Helmets are life savers undoubtedly, and we all should grip this rule without whinning about it. This device has indeed saved many precious lives in serious accident cases. Nevertheless, our attitude to cock - a - snook at all rules comes into play here too.

A friend of mine, Ravi, had an all too common experience with the traffic cops the other day. He was riding on his scooter through the market area, without a helmet. He was quickly whistled down to stop and, a cop menacingly reproached him for not having his helmet with him. He thought that it was hell - met, due to that breach of rule.

However, the cop simply told him to cough up twenty rupees and move along on his way or face the penalty of fifty rupees if he went to the boss, who was conveniently sitting far away from the spot of bother. My friend Ravi, grinned from cheek to cheek and happily relieved himself of the twenty bucks and went on his way, as though he had achieved a great victory.

It only confirms the fact that we too are a party to the indignity that we heap up on ourselves and we need not blame anyone else for our shortfalls. Do we? Corruption is now a deep rooted habit with us, almost like drinking water when we are thirsty.

It does not bother us anymore as it is just one more indignified aspect of our character. We live with it, without any remorse at our own gullibilities. How can we change these civil indignities that we deal with as a routine matter? Where do we begin to clean up our house to project ourselves as proud citizens with true self respect, and enjoying civil liberties that are a matter of common place in the rest of the world?

Certainly a subject for another debate, but one, that has to be undertaken with great honest integrity. Benjamin Disraeli, the famous British statesman and Prime Minister of yore had said: "When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken".

It is perhaps another statement that is true for all times, at least for us in view of the mores of our present existence.

Are we not fit to receive the benefits of anything without quickly misusing it and losing our credibility in the global village?

Seriously!




* N. Arunkumar contributes to e-pao.net regularly. The writer can be contacted at hareedesiree(at)hotmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on October 27th, 2009.




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