New Governments : Effort To Bridge The Hills And Valley

Peter Adani *

 Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on his maiden visit to Ukhrul :: April 11 2017
Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on his maiden visit to Ukhrul on April 11 2017:: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

Starting off with a positive note of bringing back the diminishing glory of oneness among different communities of Manipur has set a new wave of looking forward with much anticipation towards the leadership of Chief Minister N. Biren. Since his swearing in ceremony on 15th March, 2017 amidst speculations of the new leadership in Manipur at the background of both social and political unrest witnessed in recent years, the new Chief Minister has come out of the cocoon unlike the previous Government to boldly wage a new welcoming movement "Go to the Hills".

A move seen by many scholars, intellectuals, media, analyst, social organizations and Tribal bodies as Hill's friendly decision of the new BJP led coalition Government to mend the already damaged relations between the Hills and Valley of Manipur. We hope the strong directives of PM Modi to all his Union Ministers in New Delhi to visit North east India every fortnight is indeed a wise example to learn for our new Manipur Govt.

Soon after the taking over the CM office, N. Biren a stalwart and experienced politician has repeatedly affirmed on different occasions to bring equal development between the Hill Districts and Valley of Manipur. The first Cabinet Meeting under his Chairmanship declared the holding of similar cabinet meetings in the hills and provide maximum development in hill Districts. He also assured to reach all Projects and schemes to the Hill Districts through concerned departments and officials in transparent and effective governance.

One of his remarkable first and laudable moves includes the appeal made to Leishemba Sanajaoba, Titular King of Manipur on 17th March to take initiatives to bring 'emotional integration' between the Hills and Valley people. A responsibility the Royal Head in our State can play a major role as witnessed during the 139 days economic blockade where the Titular King took a bold step to meet and appeal the UNC team to Lift the blockade.

The Chief Minister's efforts to address pending Tribal issues relates to his intervention to bring UNC to the negotiation table and lift the blockade much to the relief of the people. Moreover, the successive attempts to reach out to the Tribal JAC in Churachandpur in the backdrop of introducing Anti-tribal bills in Manipur Assembly in 2015 and subsequent killing of nine lives and their nonburial till today manifest the genuine efforts of the new leadership.

During the recent meeting with the Manipur Hills Journalist Union (MHJU), the Chief Minister beautifully quoted his strategies adopted towards Hill District of Manipur as "Humanity approach with developments". "Whatever division, differences or communal divide we have right now, let us unitedly remove them with development, transparency and equal importance", he quoted. Throughout his statements in public gatherings and meetings with Tribal civil bodies, the CM reiterated the importance to regain the trust between the Government and the Tribals. Not to forget the desire to meet and sit together with neighbor Nagaland CM Dr. Shurhozelie to create better diplomacy and cordial relationship with the Naga leaders has added a point to his pro-tribal policies.

Basing on the above mentioned move and strategies of the new Manipur Government under the Chief Ministership of N.Biren Singh, some of the expectations which are visibly emerging includes the construction of women's market complex in all Hill Districts of Manipur and Rs.150 crores sanctioned instantly by the center government. The rousing reception programme at Ukhrul on 11th April, 2017 with massive public turnout to welcome a Chief Minister after many years at the backdrop of boycott calls by some Naga civil bodies in Naga areas of Manipur speaks volume of the people's expectations for development and communal harmony.

An occasion interpreted as both parties seeking new hopes of regaining the lost relations between the Hills and Valley and also the Government. Here, the quest for building better relationship between the State Government and Hill populace through the initiative of CM Biren and his team has brought a ray of hope to restore normalcy in the region. Ukhrul showered with 201 crores financial package for development of its multi-purpose hall, women's market, roads and connectivity. Such haste of the Government to usher development is reciprocated with positive reactions of the Tribal civil societies to invite and welcome the new CM to the Hills, an invitation rarely seen in Naga areas almost a decade now.

Media plays a pivotal role in creating and changing the mindset of the masses with its publication and image telecasting. Considering the social and political challenges faced by both hills and valley during certain issues, it is paramount duty of the Media fraternity to propagate the positive aspects of the hills to the Valley and vice-versa.

Journalist from both Hills and Valley exchange programmes to understand the dynamics of both the communities and their issues will project better pictures about the plight of the Hills or valley. However, the dominance of bandh, blockade, agitations, protest, community based issues, communal issues, sensitive issues in Manipur promoted by certain Media group to incite tensions and communal feelings has only worsened the vulnerability of our State to any law and order situation. Therefore, the need to curb negative and communal publicity on communal lines is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed by the new Government.

Going through reactions and response of the New Government's policies, many have recommended the establishments of Cabinet Minster's camp office located within Minisecretariat complex in all DHQs of the Hill Districts. A cabinet minister office synchronized with the District Administration in implementations of projects and schemes through monthly visit of a Cabinet minister in the Hills. Additionally, weekend stationing of concerned District Cabinet Ministers or Parliamentary secretaries in hill Districts has been suggested. Such location of high office will effect monitoring and proper implementation of schemes and developmental works.

Development with proportionate distribution for both Hills and Valley as the cornerstone, the expectations of the people has been equal treatment including establishments of mega projects in Hill Districts. The political blunder of concentrating all major projects in the Imphal valley by previous Government drew strong resentment from tribal communities in recent years.

The gap widened each year due to prolong absence of good medical centers, sports complex, employment opportunities, administrative buildings, entertainment structures, tourist sites, parks, Govt offices, educational centers, cultural centers and others in the hills. Nonetheless, the new Government can reverse all such historical blunders by providing equal facilities or infrastructural development, which will create a situation where both hills and valley will learn to depend and help each other.

It is imperative that, development as the rail-head should be the implemented with maximum transparency and strict adherence of the Government's policies to root out corruption. This will prevent the large scale practices of draining and centralizing of all major funds related to Hill Districts in the Valley by Elected members, Govt officials, departments and work agencies.

Among notable and welcoming announcement of the new Manipur Government is the establishment of 'Anti-Corruption Cell' with two dedicated officers deployed to take complaints and react accordingly.The high expectations of the people to remove the curse of corruption from the face of Manipur were clearly indicated with the creation of a Whatsapp number 9402150000 which received 400 complaints till 6th April, 2017 and still counting. Such numerous response of the public against the rampant corruption displayed the genuine prayers of the masses to fight collectively which will ensure justice and transparent governance to both Hills and Valley people.

Taking the view of many young and old people, 90% recommended that, the new government must begin the fight against corruption by launching a challenging task of initiating instant investigating into financial irregularities detected in many departments. It is utmost necessity that, a strong and experience vigilance/investigation team with high integrity must be instituted to also find out those funds misused in the name of Tribal people for the past one decade or five years. This anticorruption fight should kick off with those projects, work agencies and departments specifically related to Hill Districts of Manipur. Now it is up to the political will of the State Government to sincerely face the uphill task or succumb by pressures.

Another interesting and very encouraging move of the Government is the fixing of an official day for both Hills/Valley people and elected members to meet each other. Taking it as an opportunity created to provide space and time to the people, it will further strengthen the real sense of good governance with people's participation. Citizens from both Hills and Valley will certainly expect our Chief Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, MLAs, Beauracrates, HoDs, Officials, Staff and Govt machineries to deliver efficient and well-organized business day. A deliverance day where all schemes and beneficiaries of Govt's programme can be distributed to the people simultaneously to ensure transparency and proper distribution.

Manipur considered as a mini-India with its rich, diversified and colorful culture, traditions and practices should consider organizing cultural exchange programmes between the Tribal and Valley communities frequently in School, College, District and State levels. Despite the success of the cash rich extravagant event like Sangai Festival, many recommend organizing such mega events or some items also in Hill Districts during the Ten days.

The benefits can be read as Tourism, cultural, talents, resources or richness of each district can be showcased amidst the presence of high profile guest from foreign countries, Centre & State leaders and Government officials. Additionally, Government can also arrange Media, Students, Educational and Cultural exchange of both hills and Valley during respective District programmes like Lui-Ngai-Ni, Kut Festival, Pineapple festival, Lemon festival, Shirui festival, Orange festival and Barak Festival.

Lastly, with the hope of having a 'New Manipur where different communities can live in peace and harmony, the State Government under the leadership of CM Biren reach out to every Hill Districts of Manipur occasionally. Here, the visits of Union Ministers to oversee centrally funded programmes in remote villages of our State are highly recommended.

With much works to be done in the coming days, the involvement of all stakeholders in support of the new Government important. We cannot continue to blame on hindering subjects of insurgency, bandh, blockade, protest or corrupt system in Manipur but join our hands together to fight against all such stumbling blocks collectively and together as a citizen of Manipur where we live and see the song of ones.

* Peter Adani ( Editor , Hills Hornbill Express, Senapati ) wrote this article for 'Manipur Today' that was published by DIPR Manpur in April 2017
This article was posted on May 20, 2017.

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