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E-Pao! Essay - Coaches, colony and goal scoring pattern

Random musings on Manipur and some of its problems

By: Satyajit Aribam *


Manipur is ailing. We all know it. The problems are manifold, and like the mythical Abhimanyu trapped in the Chakravyuha, there seem to be no tangible solution or way out for Manipur out of the crisis.

But how long should we, as Manipuris, go on with this current state of affairs? It is high time that each of us wake up to the clarion call, and do what we can to make Manipur's problems manageable. Many prominent figures, many scholars and thinkers in the past have written or talked about Manipur and its development in length and many more have expressed their desires either through group discussions or through chat forums on the internet.

The current affairs is well known to all of us yet we only talk and keep on talking. Like many others, I too, have been wondering what solution we have and understand that we need a complete transformation. But how and where do we start from? While talk is good, and discussion is the first step to resolving a problem, we need to follow it up with action.

The need of the hour is a workable solution; this may not be the solution to all the problems, but definitely a solution that can be implemented by everyone at the grassroots level. Perhaps, initiative is what is required from the individual, and social conscience and community awareness need to be developed.

My recent trip to Manipur showed me a picture, one I had never pondered upon earlier, and one I never noticed before. We are running backwards and reverting to an era where barter systems once prevailed. Let me explain.

With no buying power, for whatever reasons, the common man is left with no option, but to get his necessity commodities from the neighborhood shop on credit. More often than not, the neighborhood shopkeeper has no alternative source of income.

Since the customers do not pay on time, the shopkeeper is left with no alternative, but to either close shop, or borrow from moneylenders, or barter for necessities with others.

So, instead of money running through the network, debt runs. Sadly, this has become the norm in most localities. I do not claim to have a solution, but this is one troubling aspect that plagues our society. What ramifications can this have upon the economy of the state? Is this not a ramification of the economic decay that the whole state is plunged under?

There are too many sellers and not enough buyers. This is what I noticed, when I went to the crowded Paona Bazaar, the area where goods from Moreh are sold. The youth selling jeans in a tiny shop first quoted a price of five hundred for a pair of jeans. He later sold it for two hundred and fifty rupees.

Why? It was already 4:30 p.m. and it was the first thing he had managed to sell that day. So even though he wasn't getting any profit, at least he got back the cost price of that particular item. I do not know how many pairs he sold that day, but by the looks of the goods in his shop it looks as though his goods do not move off the shelves.

They age on the shelves or on display. I looked around, and saw that this was the case in other neighboring shops too. The market is saturated with goods, and people just cannot buy: there aren't enough buyers. The most common occupation in Imphal for an unemployed person is to open a shop that deals in Moreh goods, or a groceries shop.

The difference is in the goods sold, the occupation remains the same. Every Tomba and Chaoba has a shop of some form, and one can imagine the day when the majority of the population are all shopkeepers! We need to diversify into other areas to avoid this kind of scenario. But what else can we do? With no capital, nor the right skills to even think of going to other sectors, what can we do?

If we look around, even in tiny, backward Manipur, there is entrepreneurship still alive, even in villages. Even as I write this article, some very enterprising women in a remote village have set up a cooperative to package and sell agro products, like dried spices and condiments.

Some farmer is incorporating modern know-how to yield better crops of tomatoes, ginger. Some have taken up farming of Aloe vera. These are examples of individuals taking initiative in the right direction, and I hope this can set examples to many who are looking for answers.

We need to headhunt for talent, for more capable persons who possess great ideas and encourage them in every way. Indeed, the government should adopt a policy to encourage the new entrepreneurs from all spheres, but instead of waiting for the government to do something, the common man, should also support, and continually nurture talent.

I would like to share a conversation I had years ago with one of my friends. Though I didn't quite understand the process at that time, I found the concept he had to be mind-blowing and the line he used 'Let's create electricity of our own' is something we need to nurture and make it work.

His idea is already practiced in the hills of Nagaland, and there the small streams running down the hillside have been harnessed into mini-dams to generate electricity, enough to light up a few houses or road side stalls dotting the national highway. Maybe this idea is practicable in the hills of Manipur too? Solar energy is another alternative we can explore.

And it is high time we urge the powers that be to think up alternative sources of energy, renewable energy. This is of importance in a state like ours which is reeling under the throes of a power crisis. One solution to the power cuts that Manipuris thought of was using invertors and generators.

We now don't get enough power to charge the invertors, and thanks to the increase in fuel price, generators too are becoming too expensive to use. Add to that the woes of the economic blockades. So, maybe, alternative sources of energy is an answer?

Biodiversity of Manipur has not been harnessed yet to benefit Manipuris. Look at Uttaranchal: the flora there is almost the same as found in Manipur. But while they have a proactive government, many educated farmers, NRI investors of Uttaranchal origin and a dedicated NGO like Aarohi to promote bio-tourism and to market indigenous products like rhododendron and passion fruit to the rest of India, we have no such thing in Manipur.

So, even if somebody is willing to go the extra mile, there is no expertise readily available for consultancy. However, this just means that Manipuris will not be spoonfed, and so will have to fend for ourselves, and just work harder than the rest.provided we are willing to do that. We need the will to do something instead of just complaining about what we do not have, and what we cannot do.

In this world of Internet and globalization and world becoming one nation, we should try and be part of the IT world. The Information Technology Enabled Services (IT-ES) alone does a business worth billion dollars and is expected to grow exponentially. This will create more jobs all across India as per the NASSCOM report 2006.

We should open more courses and impart the result-oriented education so as to grab all the opportunities and be prepared. But we need quality in this sector, or else, we will lose out to the more competitive manpower of other regions. We will have to be one of the best, if not the best in order to survive in this cut-throat world of competition.

And the right education and the right set of values will go a long way in molding us towards this. An excerpt from the horse's mouth, commenting on the key findings of the Strategic Review 2006 findings, S Ramadorai, Chairman, Nasscom and CEO & MD, TCS, said: "The Indian IT-ITES sector continues to chart double-digit growth and is expected to exceed $36 billion in annual revenue in FY06.

Out of this, software and services exports are estimated to grow by 32%, to reach $23.4 billion in FY06. Indian IT-ITES is well on track to achieve the targets that the industry aspires to achieve by the end of the decade."

I strongly believe in the theory that a strong state will emerge only when the three most important sectors, viz. education, politics, and economic progress go hand in hand. The right input of education will impart the right attitude and thus lay the first foundation of growth.

Here I am not endorsing the know-all type attitude; it's just my humble expression and what I believe the most important task to be taken up with utmost sincerity to prevent chaos and destruction beyond our imagination. We need to think more objectively and a little more effort will keep the current scenario at bay.

What we need is to open our minds a bit and explore the world beyond our horizons, mingle with the rest of the world, mingle with our neighbors to build understanding, and each of us have to believe that each one of us is an ambassador of our motherland, so we have to be the best in whatever we do, we have to set high standards to be on par with the rest of the world.

Only then, can Manipur rise above the morass.


Satyajit Aribam contributes for the first time to e-pao.net
He can be contacted at satyajit_aribam@yahoo.com
This article was webcasted on June 28th, 2006


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