Sportspersons : As true brand Manipur

B B Sharma *

Manipur has quite often been in the national news for all the wrong reasons. bandhs, blockades and general strikes have so often surpassed all records. The 68-day long economic blockade (April-June 2010) on the national highways of the land-locked state is now a history of sorts. Its impact is felt even four months after the blockade was officially called off.

Not a single petrol pump in the capital city Imphal has resumed its open sale. Pump opening dates are still a "front-page story" in the local newspapers. And whenever oil pumps open, unusually long vehicular queues are seen obstructing normal traffic and sales are restricted to just 10 litres for a four-wheeler.

LPG is the scarcest among petroleum products and hardly ever distributed by the local distributors. Average consumer has to wait for about eight months, for the next delivery date. Yet, it is available at Rs. 1200 per cylinder while petrol at Rs.70 per litre in the black market.

The worst sufferers are the common people but not the privileged few. Surprisingly, no political party, NGO, civil society organization has reacted while the State remains a mere onlooker.

Commenting on the everyday turmoil the common men in the state have to undergo, the Union Home Secretary Mr.G.K.Pillai, during his recent visit to Imphal, said that "Imphal East district gets on the average four hours electricity a day, the Ukhrul district is even worse with only two hours of power supply."

He added, " Manipur needs 150 megawatt of power a day and is managing with only 80 megawatt. The fact is, power is available in the national grid for the state to acquire.

The only stumbling block is the transmission line for the augmented power supply is not ready." While describing it as very unfortunate Mr.Pillai lamented that "this kind of poor governance" has aggravated the sufferings of the people.

Manipur is still considered as one of the hot-beds of militancy in the country. The Naga peace talk and the Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreements with Kuki militants have perhaps improved the overall security environment. Yet, large scale extortion, murder and kidnapping for ransom are still a matter of concern particularly in the valley districts, a fact recently admitted by none other than the State Governor himself.

Already, Manipur has so long been suffering from HIV/AIDS. Once confined to drug addicts, now it has become a social problem spreading non addicts, which continues to attract the attention of media.

But the Delhi Commonwealth Games has a different story to tell about Manipur. Out of the 101 medals won by the country, seven medals including three golds were contributed by sportspersons from Manipur.

Manipuri pugilist Suranjoy Mayengbam bagged gold in 52 kg men's boxing, since applauded as the little Tyson by sports commentators. Renubala Devi bagged gold in the 56 kg women's weightlifting while L. Bombayla Devi bagged gold in the women archery recurve event.

The other achievers in the Games are Sonia Chanu who won silver medal in the 48 kg women's weightlifting while another Manipuri girl Sandhyarani won bronze in the 48 kg women's weightlifting.

L.Monika Devi bagged bronze in the 75 kg women's weightlifting while Bhagyabati Devi won bronze in the women's compound archery event. Altogether, 16 sportspersons from Manipur were in the 495 strong national contingents in the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

With a population of hardly 25 lakhs (0.2 percent of the national population) Manipur's contribution to the national medal tally works out at roughly 9 percent.

World famous Polo, traditional Wrestling and Martial Arts have been a part of life for the people of Manipur from time immemorial.

A Manipuri pugilist M.C. Mary Kom continues to dominate the world woman boxing having won world championship five times out of the six championships, bringing glory to not only Manipur but also cheering the whole nation.

In football also Manipur is known as "Little Brazil of India".

In the prevailing "chaotic Manipur", these sportspersons have become the true brand Manipur the world over. They have already become a vital link bridging the gulf between the people of the state and the mainstream.

Thus, Government of India should emphasize sports as an effective means for mainstreaming the Manipuri psyche. It should be policy-driven and not a mere one-off sport exhibit.

* B B Sharma wrote this article for ADNI and was published at Huieyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was webcasted on December 02, 2010.

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