Revitalizing the deteriorated state of Manipur: The task ahead for CM Biren and his team

ZK Pahrii Pou *

Deteriorated state of Manipur: With the arrival of new leaders in the newly formed state government, the people of Manipur look forward with new hope for progress and peace to prevail in the state once again. The present government has colossal responsibility to repair of what the previous government had damaged.

The previous government had created a huge gap among the different ethnic communities in the state. It was this reason that many MLAs could not even visit freely to many parts of the State. Its Imphal Centric development had deprived not only the hill dwellers their share in development but also those residing in remote areas of Imphal Valley too.

It’s in everybody’s knowledge that corruption (bribery, nepotism) in job’s selection had reached its zenith under the previous government. It also holds world record of generously allowing economic blockade in the state for more than 100 days. The autocratic style of governance was demonstrated by creating seven new districts without proper consultation with all stakeholders.

The last fifteen years have seen the highest numbers of central armed forces employed in the state in the name of maintaining ‘law and order’, an unimaginable thing even under President Rule! With the loss of people’s trust as well as running short of governing skills, the previous government had justified militarization at the expense of democracy and people’s security.

Unfortunately, instead of owning moral responsibility, all its failures and mistakes were comfortably swept under the carpet of the Naga Framework Agreement. It is from such deteriorated situation that the new Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and his team have to revitalize Manipur.

Revitalizing trust one: One of the foremost responsibilities to be taken up by the new coalition government is to restore trust among the different communities in Manipur. There is an immediate need to create space for dialogue and interaction. This can be done at various levels. Seminars on peaceful co-existence can be organized by bringing together intellectuals from all the communities, NGOs and activists.

Exposure programmes can be conducted where youths from valley areas visit the remote hill areas and vice-versa. Friendly match such as football and volley ball can be organized at district level. Help the artists from various communities to form club and work together. Platform should be also created for farmers to interact with each other through which they can exchange traditional farming knowledge and better coordination in selling their produce.

Petty traders and vegetable vendors of different communities need better coordination so as to ensure better trade and income. Such and other convivial atmosphere needs to be injected to revitalize Manipur. Shouting for communal harmony or integrity without creating trust among the people is like chasing after the wind to achieve its goal.

Revitalizing trust two: Equally important to the first point is the development of trust between the government and the common people. While development is a must in the state, the prerequisite to it is to have proper and extensive consultation with the affected people. The previous government had demonstrated its total disregard on consulting the public when it comes to taking up developmental projects.

Saying that ‘all lands belong to the state’ and randomly taking up developmental projects and creating new districts at whims was a real threat to the democratic space of the people. Development needs land but at the same time land is sacred and security for many peoples especially the tribal people. Without land there is no culture and when one’s culture is lost, one’s identity is lost.

And when one’s identity is lost, they are no more unique people. Can you allow someone, say the President of USA, the most powerful man on earth, coming to grab your kitchen garden saying, ‘all lands belong to the state’? I will die defending my land than giving it away to others for whatever reason.

In the past years, the attempt to segregate the close attachment of people from the land in the name of development had led to many protests in the state as seen in Loktak Lake Project, or Airport extension or dams construction, sports university, the three bills, etc. Genuine development is people friendly and ecologically viable.

It solves people’s problem and not creating one. It does not forced people to accept but people become part of it willingly. Hence to make development a success, the pros and cons of it must be discussed with the public. This will be peace and harmony in the state.

Revitalizing trust three: For any political party to run the government smoothly, revisiting the Constitutional Provisions for Manipur state is of utmost importance. Whether one likes it or not, there was a dual administration system in the state since the British time till today.

If the Nagas in Nagaland state are protected by Article 371(A) of Indian Constitution, then the tribals in Manipur are protected by Article 371(C). If the Constitution of India allows the Nagas of Nagaland to decide whether to reject or accept bills passed in Union Parliament, then the tribals in Manipur under Hill Areas Committee (HAC) has the full right to accept or reject bills passed in the state Assembly that would affect hill areas.

Ibobi Singh and co creating new districts and development projects without consulting neither the affected people nor the HAC simply bypassed the Article 371(A).This is not only unacceptable but also legally wrong and constitutionally unjust. Whether the state is ruled by Congress or BJP, till Article 371(C) is amended or repealed, the HAC must be consulted for any issue/policy that affects the hill areas.

Our honourable CM N. Biren Singh and team must put their heads together and find ways for amicable solution to such contested constitutional provision so as to avoid confrontation among the varied ethnically sensitive communities in the near future.

Last but not the least: The state government may have good reason to explain that it does not have the power to demilitarise or reduce the number of armies at the moment. But it should give its best to put on hold the notorious ASFPA from the state. This will restore trust from the people and consequently pave way for a long term peace, social harmony and development.

While appreciating the many initiatives taken up by newly appointed CM N. Biren Singh, one is in a bit apprehension because of the state’s plan to raise four new battalions of IRB to guard NHs. It is unfair and unwise on the part of the new government to follow the same footstep of former government that tries to solve all problems of the state by using armies.

Instead of trying to fix problem with thousands of armed forces and spending crores of rupees, it will be much better if the new state government invest money on setting up life-skills training centre in every blocks.

This will enable every youth of Manipur to earn their livelihood with dignity and no one will be on National Highways waiting to exhort money/collect tax for their survival. Let us empower our youth by teaching them how to handle spade and dao but not guns. Let us beat swords (weapon of destruction) into spades (productive implement). No More Guns Please.

* ZK Pahrii Pou wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 07, 2017.

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