TODAY -

More than a chicken neck :: Psychological distance
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: November 30 2011 -

Life on Highway 39
The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi



Situated at a distance of approximately 2500 kms from Delhi, by highways, Imphal is probably the second farthest, geographically, State capital from Delhi towards the east. Given the size of India, the distance should not come as too big a surprise and in this dotcom era this should not be a factor.

However what is significant is the psychological distance between the capital of the country and Imphal and while there is no mechanism or unit to measure this distance the term 'chicken neck' corridor that runs to the north of Bangladesh and south of Nepal and connects the North East region with the rest of the country has come to mean something more than a mere description of a strip of land.

More than 60 years after independence and this psychological distance continues to persist and the scheduled visit of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on December 3 cannot be seen in isolation from this political reality.

The question of who sowed the seeds of this disconnect would be an indulgence on the 'chicken or egg first' syndrome but yet the nagging question of whether the Delhi mandarins have managed to break free from the mental cage of taking every trip to the North East region as a foreign sojourn continues to prick.

Can the visits by political leaders from Delhi be seen as something more than an exercise in foundation stone laying spree or inaugurating projects ?

These are no doubt important, as the Congress led SPF Government in Manipur would definitely want to convey to the people, but there are other issues which have been watering the plant of the psychological distance which has just been mentioned.

Will the Prime Minister have anything to say on the 120 days that the lifelines of the people were cut off or will this be deemed to be too sensitive, especially given the polarised stand of some of the major communities of the State ? Or will it be a case of an issue concerning the indigenous communities of Manipur and hence of no concern to Delhi ?

The blockade is over. The trucks must have started moving on the highways without the vigilantes on duty. However this should not be any reason why the Delhi mandarins should not be questioned on why a State of the country was allowed to remain cut off for so many days.

Will the Prime Minister be able to answer if questions were raised on what the Centre would have done if a similar case had happened to a State like Maharastra or Gujarat ?

These are hypothetical questions no doubt, but important and while all possible measures should be taken to roll out the red carpet, it would do Delhi a whole lot of good to seriously study why the psychological disconnect continues more than 60 years after India embarked on her tryst with destiny.

Manipur continues to remain on the fringe of Delhi's consciousness, politically and economically and while the opening of the economy may have opened up vistas for development in other parts of the country, the State continues to be caught in a time warp.

That it does not come under the description of either India or Bharat is another important indicator of the reality.

On the other hand, while the Prime Minister may adroitly side step the politically sensitive issues such as Sadar Hills, Alternative Arrangement or Supra State Body, what will be heard in good measure are the various development projects the Congress led UPA Government has initiated after it came to power in 2004.

The primary purpose of the scheduled visit also fits into this scheme of things. The Assembly complex, the High Court complex, the Inter-State Bus Terminus, City Convention Centre etc will all be portrayed as the trump cards of the Congress Governments, at Delhi and Imphal but can the people seriously expect something more than just these projects which may ultimately not fit in as the indices for development ?

Remember the entire North East region has been verbally criss crossed with railway lines umpteen times. Remember almost all the villages in Manipur too have been electrified.

It is worth remembering these, even as a warm welcome is accorded to the honourable Prime Minister and Madam Sonia Gandhi.





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