TODAY -

The tragedy of being landlocked and small
- Manipur's risks -

Amar Yumnam *

"Few serve truth in truth because only few have the pure will to be just, and of those again very few have the strength to be just." This is what Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) said. The power and relevance of this insight is aptly borne by the Monika episode.

Not the First: But what we must appreciate and always be prepared for is that such treatments of our sportspersons were seen in the past as well and the Monika episode would not be the end either. There are certain facts associated with the overall Indian psyche which we can only play along or risk oblivion otherwise.

The Indian psyche is by and large a highly caste oriented. The nation has been a victim of it all too long and the small places like Manipur suffer all the more. In this caste-based milieu, it definitely must not have been a happy outcome to the majority that the Manipuris having "tribal" looks do so well in sports.

It is not the reason but the reality of people with "different" looks delivering performance which is unacceptable to the dominant psyche. It is this psyche which has been playing havoc with the reasoned (valid or otherwise is a different issue altogether) approaches of the government of India to mainstream the region; a kind of hugging but refusing to lock the lips.

The Tragedy: As I said in the beginning, such maltreatments would be the rule rather than the exception until the foreseeable future because the very geography and size of population of Manipur are such as to incapacitate a fitting retaliation.

If the State were in a centrally located area nationally, a business hub and a communication hub, then a disturbance would at once generate a nation-wide adverse economic impact.

But the very peripheral location and absence of any national hub of economic importance makes any disturbance hurt the very interests of the agitated people. This is what has happened in the bandh relating to the Monika episode as well. It was a successful bandh after a long time in the real sense of the term, but it hurt our own economic interests only without in any way impacting upon the national psyche.

Besides this geographic tragedy, the demographic tragedy is that we do not have the numbers in terms of size of population. This is particularly so at the national decision making level; barring the Ratan Thiyam days at the National School of Drama, there is no precedent of presence of people from this land at the national decision making levels.

Now Much More: Now these Monika-like risks are getting increasingly unfolded in this land without our fully noticing them. With the Africa continent joining the growth surge of India and China, it is only natural that the food and fuel prices would only follow a rising trend.

Earlier our family was so poor that we had our 'kangshois' without the dried fishes, and we had 'hawai thongbas' without the concomitant 'morok-ametpas'. Now with the little stabilization in the source of income, our family now affords dried fishes, ametpas and 'kangous'.

Now this is exactly what has been happening around Africa, India and China as a whole, thereby raising the demand for both food and fuel. Well when demand rises faster than supply, the prices would naturally follow demand (I am disclosing here a big secret of Economics).

One may ask here, what are the risks of Manipur in this milieu. Well, we have not been part of the Indian surge in growth at all. It is in this context that we have been naturally subject to rising prices of both food and fuel recently. When the economy is not growing, the government is not poor-friendly, and the governance is weak and corrupt, the situation is ripe for all the unwanted to occur.

We have now started hearing more often than not, inter alia, of our girls being taken to outside the State as "domestic help". We know, however, from the global development trajectory that all such movements land the girls ultimately in the brothels.

We have in fact by now our own share of girls being driven into the oldest profession purely by economic forces working in the heart of the State's capital. We can close our eyes to it only at our own peril. Arresting them and booking them under whatever laws of the land would serve no purpose. The problem here is not one of law and order but one of acute economic compulsions.

The specific risk here is that while the global rise of food and fuel prices may get highlighted and draw specific global attentions, the problems of food and fuel at the micro levels as in the case of Manipur would hardly receive any appropriate attention.

The Role of Government: It is exactly here that the role of the State government becomes paramount. It has to be continually alive to two things and work relentlessly to appropriately respond to these.

First, it must always look and endeavour to push for our people into decision making bodies and levels of the country. Secondly, it must be alive all the time to the deepening and unfolding economic scenarios confronting the land.

In sum, our government at the provincial level can afford to be idle but only at the cost of life, livelihood and dignity of the people of whose interests it is supposed to protect.




* Amar Yumnam writes regularly for The Sangai Express. The writer can be contacted at yumnam1(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk. This article was webcasted on September 06, 2008.

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