The rise of new hopes with the advent of a new BJP-led coalition Govt in Manipur

Khelsoril Wanbe *

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

It's been only few weeks since the formation of the new BJP led coalition government, yet some very encouraging developments or forward movements have unmistakably taken place. The bringing to an end of the months long economic blockade was one that brought a huge sigh of relief to the people of Manipur although many more dialogues and discussions may have to take place to bring about long term solutions and mutual understanding in the land.

In line with his announced priorities, the Chief Minister also made a special attempt to resolve the more than two year old stalemate involving the death of nine civilian protestors in the anti ILP bills in Churachandpur with the mortal remains of eight of the victims still lying in the morgue. The negotiation is yet to resume and an amicable solution to the impasse is yet to be found.

Another spectacular event was that of the CM's mammoth entourage that went to Ukhrul which was accorded sumptuous welcome by the denizens of the town. Yet another noteworthy development that the new CM undertook was his visit to the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU) located at Makhan. The CM must be having heaps of businesses and issues to deal with one after another in the days ahead. A number of projects were initiated by the previous governments, some of which had been completed and accomplished while some others still remain unable to see the light of the day for quite some time.

The Indira Gandhi National Tribal University is one such project that, if I'm not mistaken, seems to have been in doldrums for quite a long time now. Its inauguration was held almost a decade ago in Y2K9 at the campus of former Adimjati High School. Tall promises of providing higher education facilities and university level teaching opportunities to the youth, especially the tribal youth, of Manipur were flying high in the air.

We do hear that after the acquisition of about 301 acres of land, some infrastructural developments have been dragging on at Makhan for quite a long time now. The high profile inaugural function was graced as Chief Guest by none other than the former honourable CM of Manipur, and, if I'm not mistaken, even the announcing or compeering job of the function was taken up by some high ranking bureaucrats. Expectations were sky high but years rolled by with progress seemingly moving at snail pace, if I'm not mistaken.

In his recent visit to the university, the new honourable Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri. N. Biren expressed his eagerness and willingness to help the tribal university in every possible way including opening of new departments. Indeed, since the university has been established with the pronounced/ purported objective of providing higher education facilities and higher education and collaterally university teaching job opportunities to the tribal youth of Manipur, all the major arts, science and commerce departments need to be opened without further indefinite delay; and it needs to be borne in mind that the university campus is meant for the youth, particularly tribal youth of Manipur.

That being the case, and as suggested by the honourable CM, the university needs to be converted into a full-fledged independent university of the state that will optimally serve the tribal youth of Manipur, which will go a long way in bringing about a strong sense of belongingness to the minds of the tribal youth of Manipur.

It will also help in reducing the immense pressure that is exerted on the one and only Manipur University. In fact, the university can be redesigned in such a way as to serve the interests of the youth of the whole of Manipur like the Central university of Manipur at Canchipur, a university meant to serve the people of the entire state. Although a central university, Manipur University, undoubtedly, belongs to the people of Manipur much more than any other citizens of other states of India. What I would like to say is that the two universities, having been established especially for the people of Manipur, should be so designed as to serve the people of Manipur in the best optimal way.

Indeed, they should serve as instruments of bringing about unity, cooperation, integrity and equitable development in the state; they should not be allowed to serve as bones of contention and strife among the youth of Manipur. They should be developed in such a way as to benefit the youth of Manipur by providing them with higher education facility and university teaching/non teaching job opportunities.

It may not be an exaggeration to say that Manipur, despite being a trouble torn state and so called insurgency affected state, has been able to produce maximum number of research scholars compared to other north-eastern states. Today, hundreds of youth are serving as professors at colleges and universities all over the country. There is no denying the fact that Manipuri youth are making tremendous progress in the field of education, particularly, higher education.

Every year thousands of youth are moving out of the state in search of graduate and post-graduate education in other places like Calcutta, Punjab, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai etc owing to their inability to get admission in the state institutions which is a strong indication of the need to open more colleges and universities with adequate infrastructural requirements like classrooms, libraries, hostel etc.

Recently, lists of All India ranking of colleges, central universities, technical institutions etc were published in some national papers. In the list of Top 100 Universities in India, some universities from the North-east India like Gauhati University, Tejpur University, NEHU, Mizoram University, Dibrugarh University, Assam University etc managed to cut a ranking. I was taken aback when I could not find Manipur University in the list.

I felt bad especially because in terms of production of research scholars like MPhil, PhDs, NET/JRF holders and judging from the many products of M.U. that are serving as college and university teachers all over India, Manipur University doesn't seem to lag behind other universities of north-east India, at least. The question arose as to where we have gone wrong.

It's high time we did some serious introspection and plugged our loopholes. There are some criteria of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) that have to be fulfilled to score good grades. Even if we are very good in some areas, if we lag behind in some important areas, we are likely to show poor performance in the overall ranking.

The major criteria include, curricular aspects, teaching-learning and evaluation, research, consultancy and extension, infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progression, governance, leadership and management, innovations and best practices etc. In the field of research, we may claim to have made spectacular progress, yet, when it comes to other important aspects like infrastructure, learning resources, management etc, we are still lagging behind other modest looking institutions.

There is the need to make proper assessment and evaluation of our library, laboratory facilities and faculty strength. If we take care of some of the major grading criteria, we can hope to perform much better in the near future.

The centre and the state governments need to pay serious, sincere and adequate attention towards promoting Higher Education and Technical Education in Manipur by effecting all round development of our premier higher education and technical institutions like Manipur University, Central Agriculture University, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, NIT, IIIT, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Dhanamanjuri University, Manipur University of Culture, and the upcoming Sports University etc.

* Khelsoril Wanbe wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 21, 2017.

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