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E-Pao! Opinion - Be Manipuri and buy Manipuri

Be Manipuri and buy Manipuri

By: KshetriMayum Imokanta Singh *



Any self-respecting Manipuri is painful to walk down the main markets of Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar. The colonisation of the market by non-Manipuri traders is complete and heart wrenching. Yes, I am not blaming them for this slow and firm intrusion into our bread and butter. The blunder lies in us who allowed them to sneak thinking that they are harmless and poor people as if we are the benevolent saviours of the cursed ones. See, now we are paying the price of our innocence and ignorance and also lack of entrepreneurship. In Manipur everything, from needle to trucks, seems to be imported from outside. The surprise is the command these traders have even in the cultural spheres of Manipur for commercial benefits. For instance, how could coconut be an indispensable part of Ningol Chakouba in this land where it is not grown at all?

Ok, leave aside this and look at the Moreh market. Anything Moreh is cheap and stylish. There is Moreh T-shirts, jeans, jackets, shoes, toys, almirahs, perfumes, goggles and the list is long and yes Moreh chanam (garlic), Moreh tilhou (onion), Moreh mairel (pumpkin) etc… That day is not far when there will be Moreh ngari (fermented fish) and Moreh made hybridised people. How could people consume the soiled food products like Moreh achars and numitlei maru (sunflower seeds) of various hues as delicacies? God knows how they are made but at least one can judge from the quality it tastes. One thing is sure that the Manipuri society is obsessed with anything foreign, be it Indian or Moreh. There is a serious loophole in our perception of things, which also influences our work culture. Consumerism has already swept across the length and breath of our society when there is negligible amount of production from our side. Anything new is fashionable irrespective of comfort index, be it the culture of CBZs or torn jeans.

Somebody may claim that it would be very taxing to resist the currents of the day when the world seems to have become one specially after all these globalisation and liberalisation. Yes agreed, but what is our contribution to all these new strong movements? Are we going to be only the gobbling pots of these junk products keeping our self-respect on the backburner? Do we think that other people will appreciate our hollow 'high' culture? I seriously and sincerely doubt this self-aggrandisement. Somebody may again reiterate the age-old platitude that Manipur can survive alone given its resources and manpower are effectively explored. But when and how? Are we simply going to wait for the day when we will be 'alone' and reserve all our 'skills' and 'energies' for that D-day?

For the time being we can avoid the self-blaming exercise and defer it for later space. First thing first, extensive and pro-active awareness, nay, aw-akening programmes are need-ed from the side of concerned organisations like local clubs to educate the people about the economic loot our culture is inflicting. Here I am not talking about engaging those NGOs, which exist only in the air while feeding on lots of unaccounted mullahs (money), but genuine ones. It should not be a heavy task given the emotional index of the Manipuris. It is very important that they are encouraged to be true Manipu-ris and to buy Manipuri products even at the cost of certain glitz. But the satisfaction and pride in wearing and using something Manipuri is sufficient. Maintenance of this pri-de is crucial for the sustenance of our society. So, we need to start a new swadeshi movement in Manipur to lift the economic condition and more than this the self-confidence of the people that they can also deliver the goods. This movement will also take into task the Manipuri babus in 'show-business' who are the sons and daughters of Nike, Adidas, Benneton and Honda.

Production of anything, literally anything, is not impossible in Manipur. We have already got firm grip on the textile business, including handloom, and we can manufacture whatever type of clothes we need and our products are not inferior to any other products from outside. One thing, which we lack in this field are the raw materials, which are imported. But if we ponder upon carefully, we do not lack them too, given the availability of the resources such as tsar farming in the wide hilly terrain. Only thing is to systematically sap them to stop the influx of already present products from as far places as Gujarat or Rajasthan or elsewhere. Add to this our comm-and over the handicrafts. Now let us see the spheres of technology specific products like electronic gadgets. Even if we are not able to completely man-ufacture them we can at least assemble the TVs, computers, audio systems, etc. to give a learning opportunity to our people. This way we can march toward the final goal of manufacturing the complete products one-day. And now if we take the area of food products, the whole range is open to us. People should learn one lesson or two from the success story of 'Manifru' and diversify the prism to other horizons too.

The Manipur valley is one of the most fertile valleys and we can maximise its utility by indulging into various forms of farming not just paddy but vegetables instead of keeping the fields empty for the rest of the year after the harvest. We can bring in a new green revolution, which already came to Western and Northern India in the 1970s. Manipur can also start manufacturing agricultural machinery to meet the soaring demands. The ranges of opportunities are unlimited and I cited only a few to attract the attention of the people. The first aim should be self-sufficiency and then we can think of export. The thing is why should we import foldable almi-rahs from Tamu when we have already seen the nuances of its construction? The TV sets of 'Manitron' etc. must try to maintain the standard so that people may not go for Sony or BPL or LG ones. The local manufacturing units must also utilise the good expertise of marketing like convincing people about their products thro-ugh media and also exhaustive use of door to door demonstration technique. It is also the responsibility of the people to stick to these local ones even at the cost of some snags in the products. This will drive the adrenaline level of the small companies to better their products.

Now here comes the main stumbling block. How can we venture into this uphill terrain without proper funding? In this endeavour the Manipur Government, rather the politicians need to be taught little bit of patriotism and need to be educated about the grim future of Manipur, if we are not cautious now, at least to take an exile from their wealth amassing mission. Our Chief Ministers and ministers should try to learn certain sacrifices and entrepreneurship from Chandra-babu Naidu, the present Chief Minister of AP. Easy availability of essential funds should be made to welcome new entrepreneurs of the land. But we cannot always depend upon the Government for a good cause. The initiative must also come from our side and face the hardships of amassing fund from private sources. This may sound little idealistic but if we see the success story of Reliance Company and Sahara Group of Companies it is not an impossible proposition. It should be an eye-opener for us how Dhirubhai Ambani started from the scratches.

The bottom line is that we must be vigilant about various legal sources of fund, which are at our disposal and capitalise on them. Prior to this funding problem and more important than this are the moral height and that willingness to scale the untrodden fields or simply the enterprising nature of our people. If these are ingrained in our inner selves the battle is almost won. Here I am talking about Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which may cater to the maximum employment of our people. In USA nearly half of the private workforce is employed in small firms and in Japan 78% of jobs are generated by SMEs. We need to have many vocational training institutes imparting the essential skills. In this effort we can bring in many experts from outside the state to train our manpower. But more practical way is learning by doing. This is a prosperous way to save our society and probably a solution to the present political crisis too.

The simple truth here is that we must try, at any cost, to contain the amount of essential goods, which are flooding our markets from outside and must be substituted by the local made ones. If we cannot burn the foreign goods like du-ring the Indian freedom movement we can at least counsel ourselves to change the mode of our taste and avoid the junks. I know it is a difficult task altogether but we cannot defer it for want of right time. No time is wrong time. At least we have to start the journey to cover the distance though tiresome. Somebody may see this whole idea as a dream of an idealist but I can sight the future of Manipur, which is choked with smoke of dependence and chained by the iron shackles of foreign goods and traders.

Even if one individual is moved by this article I will pat myself at my back that I am successful in drawing her/him out of her/his cocoon of complacency. So, Arise, Awake and Stop not till Manipur is freed from her age-old noose.


KshetriMayum Imokanta Singh is a Ph.D. scholar at JNU, New Delhi
He contributes regularly to e-pao.net.

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