More about development and welfare of the people

Khelsoril Wanbe *

 Traffic circus in August 2016
Traffic circus in August 2016 :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao

There is no doubt that India is experiencing rapid development and is expected to soon become a fully developed nation. Manipur too being part of this huge subcontinent, hectic development activities are taking place in it. Manipur also seems to cherish the dream of becoming a tourist hotspot in the near future. Indian railway too has arrived in this land of Jewels which is likely to be accompanied by numerous banes and boons.

Compared to other rapidly developing states, the pace of development in Manipur may be regarded as rather sluggish. Despite everything, hectic development activities are taking place. Umpteen construction works have been taking place construction of hotels, hospitals, supermarkets, convention halls, universities etc of seemingly international standard.

Besides colossal buildings, construction of roads, dams, bridges too have been taking place. Widening of some vital roads of the city too has taken place. In other words, hectic beautification and glorification of Imphal city are happening. New institutions and even some small industries too are likely to come up in the coming future.

However, there seems to be the need to ask for whose welfare are all the development activities taking place? Can there be development sans welfare of the people belonging to all walks of life? And again, when we say welfare of the 'people,' "Who are the people?"A section of people or all the people regardless of their economic and social status.

In what interest and manner are development activities being carried out? Are they being taken up to serve the business interest of a few rich and well connected persons? Are they taking place only nominally and superficially sans quality or standard? We have often heard of collapse bridges, buildings walls and roofs, cracked and leaked dams etc. It's true that 'to err is human' and 'everybody commits mistakes', but if the frequency of mistakes increases unabatedly, then there must be a real problem.

The moot point I'd like to raise here is that developments should mean welfare of all sections of people; they should not merely serve the interests of few superrich powerful individuals. If construction of dams and building complexes means uprooting and displacement of poor hapless people, then the question in whose interest and at whose expense is the development taking place automatically arises.

Who are the expendables and who are the creams of the society? At the time of formulating development plans and policies, planning experts and legislators need to take into thorough consideration all the pros and cons, all the benefits and losses and all the merits and demerits of a proposed development project. All ways and means should be sought to avert any kind of unwarranted human hardship and casualties.

This needs to be clearly recognised and understood that all human lives are equally precious. The life or blood of one person isn't in anyway superior or inferior to any other human being who could be Mukesh Ambani or a beggar in the streets. Human lives are of same value just like voting rights of all the genuine citizens of India are the same. The vote cast by Mukesh Ambani or Dilip Shanghvi is not worth billion times more than any other poor Indian.

When the richest man dies he will be buried or cremated in the same way as any other poor man. Yes, one may argue about golden diamond studded coffins, but the decomposition of human body will happen in the same way. True development should serve the interest of one and all, equally. No industry should be set up at the cost of uprooting the habitats of economically and politically weak people.

The state as well as the central governments should never work only in the narrow interest of the superrich billionaires and millionaires. If at all, industries need to be set up or superhighway constructed, the concerned government should look for all possible alternative ways and means to avert inhuman displacement and destitution of poor citizens of the nation. If there is no possibility of finding alternative sites or routes, the affected people should be adequately compensated with least official procedures. Laws to this effect should be introduced.

One sad thing that we have been witnessing in recent time here in Manipur has been that of eviction of so called illegal encroachers on reserved area. On the other hand, the so-called encroachers' usual claim is that they have been settling in the area for so many long years and generations. For so long and by successive governments, they been allowed to settle peacefully and in natural way and how all of a sudden, they are served quit notice? It's very sad to see the hue and cry of the poor and hapless victims of eviction drives.

I am not trying to accuse the government, but I only wish that some humanitarian consideration is given to the pitiable predicament of those poor people who have been living and earning their daily livelihood at the place from which thay are being evicted. Eviction drives have increasingly served as sights of untold human hardship and suffering just like what we see in Palestine where Israeli Defence Force (IDF) usually demolish the houses belonging to the families of alleged suicide bombers.

Demolition of human dwelling houses is not a happy sight to relish; it is very disturbing. The government needs to think of ways and means of averting enactment of such human disaster in the name of development and progress. Roads, buildings and industries are not more important than poor human beings.

Regarding construction of dams too, I'd like to share a thought or two. Why are dams constructed? Dams are primarily constructed for improvement of irrigation, treatment and supply of clean water, generation of electricity etc. But, what we often witness is inundation of vast areas of precious human habitats, paddy fields and total and permanent destruction of rich ecosystems in place of irrigation of cultivable lands. And then, we also observe the problem of inordinately long period of incompletion of dam construction.

Construction of dams may mean crores of earning for some individuals, but the subsequent destruction of highly valuable and productive land should be taken into serious consideration. One may become rich and successful by engaging in contract works, but the most important meaning of development and welfare of a land is not production of few crorepatis or lakhpatis.

We also need to remember that governments are not permanent entities; they may last only few terms, few years, few months or few days. Governments get their mandate from the people; they only represent the wishes and dreams of the people. Never should they work in the interest of few superrich and financially powerful people. Mere growth of the GDP India cannot be a true reflection of the economic prosperity and welfare of all the citizens of India. It needs to be recognised that till today hundreds of millions of India are still living in abject poverty without getting access to educational and medical facilities.

We read and hear that millions of Indians don't even enjoy the luxury of owning a decent toilet. Hundreds of millions of Indians are living BPL. A hundred billionaires should not be made to represent the economic condition of 1.2 billion Indians. There are reports galore that there is a sharp rise in income and economic disparity in India and there is increasing concentration of wealth in small percentage of the people. According to World Wealth Report, India was home to 198,000 high net worth individuals (annual income over one million dollar) whose combined amounted to $785 billion.

* Khelsoril Wanbe wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 06, 2016.

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