Reasoning the district re-organisation

Thangkhokai Haokip *

Manipur district map
Manipur district map

The concept of 'Governmentality' by Michel Foucault which connotes the 'art' of government and the 'how' of governing, how desirable it may be, seems not fully in congruence with the historic move or what can be term as 'tactical move' of the Government of Manipur in creating seven new districts which now totals to 16 districts from 9 districts. This is due to the case of 'land' being a sensitive issue and the emotional attachments, more so in case of Manipur which has seen constant conflicts and contradictions among different communities in the State.

The response of different sections in the State to this district reorganisation can well be termed a 'mix' by reason of some welcoming the move and others opposing it. What can best describe this move is shadowed down to the issue of wrangling over administrative convenience versus political gimmick and further conceived by some as an act of appeasement policy. This matrix has been further classified with the deep division of the three major communities of the state viz Meitei, Kuki and Naga on ethnic lines.

Partisanship and the vie for higher hierarchic position in the biopolitics and social arena of Manipur among the three main communities have always resulted into 'Governance' becoming the sole victim. Again this episode fuelled the division further as it acts as a catalyst by way of a blame-game theory in the thick of things. Thus the mayhem goes on in a cyclic manner as the catalyst are intra and hence becoming more like a superbugs resistance to mutual healing and reconciliation.

Case of seven new district Gerrymander?

The following study and comparison shouldn't be conceived as favouring the policy decision of the government as a 'good-will' nor 'ill-will' but purely from the perspective of administrative convenience and governance of Manipur vis-a-vis its relations to her neighbours.

Nagaland with a population of 19,80,602 and area of 16,579 square km has 11 districts. This means that average size of each district is 1,507 square km with a population of 1,80,054 per district. With a population of 2,855,794 and area of 22,327 sq km for Manipur, the corresponding data for average size of each district and population for Manipur has turn out to be 2,487 sq km and 3,02,417 respectively. Further, Mizoram has an average district population of 1,37,150 which is less than half to that of Manipur.( All data as per 2011 census )

With more or less similar topographical features and conditions, it can thus be concluded that this move of Manipur government to create seven new districts is of a very significant ones and a no non-sense policy decision or is not a gerrymandering.

Administration as the basis of government and the idea of administration as politics as postulated by Paul H. Appleby fitted well in this episode. Perceiving this district re-organisation at face value in the perspective of administrative bettering and trumping thus becomes very crucial and imperative for the development administration and for administration of development.

Constitutional provision with regards to district formation and administration

District has been the most important unit of administration in our administrative set up. District formation in a state has been within the domain of the state government as per our constitutional provisions.

The Constitutional Assembly left this aspect to the wisdom of the state legislature and hence is categorised in the state lists. Thus from this perspective, the state government is well within its ambit and hence doesn't violate any law and practice.

Nevertheless, the documented laws and rules shouldn't be applied without any value premises in formulation of public policy as the legitimacy of the government in terms of how inclusive and encompassing its policy decision is, is critical for the successful implementation and acceptance from the people. The problems and issues we face today are global in nature yet they should be address from local or ground situation.

This necessitates proper consultation, transparency mechanism and plurality in involving stake holders in public policy process which directly and indirectly affects the citizens so that the sentiments of the subjects are taken care and no one felt left out in the entire process. The government should remember that laws and rules are a means to achieve further and is not an end in itself. Management theorist Chester Bernard's 'theory of acceptance' where acceptance ( by the governed ) as the basis of authority and power is significant in this aspect.

Case against UNC's move

Having mentioned that, protest and agitation from different sections with contrasting claims and demands shouldn't become a tool to impede or obstruct every policy decision of the government of the day. Diverse stakeholders with conflicting interest among themselves can't be allow to intrude into the domain of the legislative power by way of stalling or blocking legislation.

Thus while the Nagas under the United Naga Council (UNC) have every rights to protest and resent against the government which is the hallmark of democratic principle, their resolution of rejecting all together the seven new districts is uncalled for and it tantamount to an act of anarchy which have no locus standi in our democratic set up.

Further, the UNC's demands for invoking Article 356 in the state to the Union Home Minister is void of legal sanctity and procedure. If at all is needed, placing the documents at the Governor's desk will be a more appropriate move. Despite the chaos and disorder, there is no failure of constitutional machinery in the state and this irresponsible demand by UNC team could make way for political opportunity and drama in the midst by some unwanted opportunists.

Economic blockade

The resorts to indefinite economic blockade on the life line of our state, further using it as a tool to vent out anger towards the state government is not a mature move and is thus unwarranted. This is because it affects the whole population of the state irrespective of who is innocent, deserving or not. This fails the test of ethical action. The result has been a counter-blockade by other sections who feel victimized and thus this further fuel division and conflicts that continues unabated.

This indefinite blockade and counter blockade should be immediately stop and whosoever have any resentment should follow democratic and lawful means to protest against the government.

The shortage of essential commodities and its sky rocketed price is a violation of Article 21 of our constitution which guarantees to all its citizens the protection of life and personal liberty. The Supreme Court's bench notice, headed by Justice GS Singhvi and Justice Sudhansu, to both the centre and the state government to detail out the guideline to tackle such blockade is a welcoming judicial governance. The proposed guidelines submitted by the government should henceforth be implemented in letter and spirit with legal backing and provisions of penalty for the effectiveness of the policy.

Case of vote bank politics

The wave of anti-incumbency and the attempt to saffronise Manipur have gained a new momentum over the past years. The resignation of several senior congress functionaries in the state further minimise the future prospects of the incumbent. In this backdrop, the perception that the creation of seven new districts is a case of an appeasement policy of the government to garner support in the upcoming state election, no doubt, seems to bear substance. This has been vociferously postulated by sections of the society who feel dismayed over the district re-organisation.

While this reasoning do have some elements, accepting it in one go would prove fatal as this will amount to undermining the capacity of the people to make prudent decision on the ballot and set to themselves a better future. Further, this arguments seems to have greater footing influence from the communal angle and thus is not a sound reasoning and take.

Careful analysis of the all government policies over the last 15 years of the incumbent should be our base for exercising our franchise to shape our own future and we shouldn't get carried away by just a single decision however tactical it may sound.

Way forward

So as to realize maximun good and outcomes in this district re-organisation, it is important for us to consider this as a measure of development administration and development imperatives upon the government for enhancing better governance and delivery.

The lack of infrastructure, the issue of accessibility to the far flung areas of the state due to difficult topographical features, lack of health care and educational facilities, public order and communication should form the crux of our reasoning and deliberations. We shouldn't compromise our basic human rights and dignified living by way of peaceful coexistence of all communities in the face of conservatism and self-centricism.

Thus, the notion that creation of seven new districts is a ploy of the government to further its continuity by way of electoral gains should not form the major part of our thought process. Instead the case of ultimate authority to decide our own future in a democracy, which is the focal and rest alone on us, should we consolidate further upon.

* Thangkhokai Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be contacted at tskakaihaokip(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on December 29, 2016.

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