By: Amar Yumnam
Imphal, Jan 22:
The absolute social mess in Manipur which is racing fast to complete a year can be looked at from two angles – one from the angle of governance competence of the provincial government and another from the perspective of the sensibility and commitment of the union government. The necessity of looking from the governance approach arises because – in quite unlike the historical experiences of Manipur – instead of a week or fortnight turmoil, it continues with features of rising inhumanity. Above all, it is not Manipur at all as we have understood and experienced historically.
In this piece, I shall be looking at the crisis by examining how and what the provincial government has been like. During the last about half a century of training and indulgence in governance studies, I have never seen anyone like the present provincial government in terms of the following qualitative characteristics:
1. The cultural and the historical legacy is not only unaware but take as irrelevant;
2. Non-application of mind in deciding the priority of issues in deciding for attention;
3. Making frequent statements least relevant to the crises being encountered;
4. The inability to understand the difference between the routine law and order problem and a social problem;
5. The lack of knowledge of what a social problem is in a diverse society;
6. The absence of understanding of the differential demographic features;
7. The absolute lack of appreciation of the geographic features;
8. The contemporary global competition for progress based on social and technological choices is something out of the world; and
9. The province is taken as any other province anywhere.
All these weaknesses reveal that the present provincial government is not even aware of what governance implies. A few lines would be of relevance here. Instead of own statements, I would rather quote from known authorities such that unnecessary queries are made; this is particularly because in recent years we observe a trend among youths of criticising with uncultured languages in social media and private talks while they fail to appreciate any argument in a debate instead of putting labour to understand: there is a social decline of serious study. Vasudha Chhotray and Gary Stroker (2009) define governance in their book Governance Theory and Practice : A Cross-Disciplinary Approach thus: “First governance is a political activity; it is about coordination and decision-making in the context of a plurality of views and interests.
Conflict and dissent provide essential ingredients to a governance process. Given human society, as it has been and as it might reasonably be expected to be in the future, people will make judgements about what is right for themselves and for others, and that there is no reason to assume that those judgements will be shared. Equally it is clear that as humans we need to find ways to act together, to engage in collective action, to resolve the problems and challenges of living together. ….. as ‘the struggles which result from the collisions between human purposes: most clearly when these collisions involve large numbers of human beings’. Politics informs governance in that it provides the raw material both to construct governance arrangements and the focus of much governance activity when it is operating.
“The second …… governance is an intensely human activity [whose] existence to some extent is explained by the limits of our human capacities. If we are all-seeing and knowing and could faithfully predict each other’s behaviour then the frameworks and rules of governance would be unnecessary. We could exchange views and resolve conflicts without resort to institutions and practices that simplify our choices, limit our areas of focus, push our understanding in certain directions and provide rules of thumb or heuristics so that we have a rough idea about what to do in different settings. Governance exists in part because it provides us with effective ways to cope with the limitations of human cognition and understanding. It provides architecture for choice in the context of our bounded rationality….
Governance arrangements are brought to life by decision-makers that are boundedly rational. Decision-makers, as it were, have to deal both with the external environment and their inner world, their cognitive architecture. The inner world helps them to focus on some things and ignore others and it is driven by habits of thought, rules of thumb, and emotions. Rationality is ‘bounded’ by this framing role of the human mind. Insights from social psychology and cognitive studies suggest that actors develop various coping techniques and heurists to deal with the challenges they face. Some are seen as providing effective ways of coming to a judgement – ‘better than comprehensive rationality’ – and others are seen as having in-built pathologies or weaknesses … One of the characteristics of an effective governance mechanism is that it steers actors and the organisations they lead to certain types of desired behaviour in the context of bounded rationality.”
This is where what Maartwn Hajer says in his Authoritative Governance Policy-making in the Age of Mediatization (2009) becomes relevant. “Governance, in my view, is and has always been first and foremost about the authoritative enactment of meaning. Once meaning is given, policies will follow, albeit obviously not autonomously and effortlessly. Ontological and epistemological convictions …. ensure that I pay a good deal of attention to the contingency of political moments and the sequential logic of political events that, from one moment to the next, create and re-create meaning and, ultimately, create political facts. With the emphasis on this discursive work comes the return of the actor, although obviously in settings that exert influence themselves. The presumption then is that situations are constantly negotiated, and that those who are able to impose their interpretations of reality on others gain substantial control over political debates, no matter what their institutional position is. It is (yet another) call to open up the institutions that represent power, and investigate empirically how and why institutions (and the protagonists that are their ‘face’) are authoritative in some situations, and what explains their failure in others. Given this emphasis on the role of political performance, it will not come as a surprise that I suggest we can make sense of policy-making in our age by employing a perspective analysing governance as political drama.”
With this nearly longish understanding of governance, we can straightway come to policy-making. This is where the provincial government has utterly failed. No government under the sun can know about Manipur better than the provincial government of Manipur. The necessity of policy, currently emphasised around the globe, is that it should be contextual land relevant. Instead of this what has happened in the ongoing crisis in Manipur are the absolute unwillingness to apply mind and the complete absence of policy being framed by the provincial to the happenings of violence and death that have been the undoing of Manipur. This failure has led to the second-round effect of the actual happenings and potential social costs being reported to the union government. Since there are no reports and pressures from the provincial government, the union government too took the convenient approach of ignoring all happenings.