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Jeet Akoijam

Jeet Akoijam

Jeet Akoijam, Resident Editor of Imphal Times hails from Singjamei Liwa Road. Has been with Imphal Times since its start. A National level Rugby player and  a regular Trekker and Nature Lover, loves spending time in lap of Mother Nature. Jeet is the father of two lovely kids. Jeet can be contacted at [email protected]

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Manipur on a high: the unacknowledged drug menace

Manipur police recorded the biggest haul of banned narcotic drugs in the North east region with the seizure of 40 lakh tablets of contraband WY (World is Yours), worth Rs 400 crore in the international market at the inter-village road (IVR) at Phoudel Keirembi Mathak Leikai under Thoubal District assisted by local youth clubs and women welfare associations in the locality. The dubious distinction is nothing new or unexpected, and if the past is any indication, many more and bigger hauls are yet to be expected. This is an alarming indication of the volume of banned psychotropic drugs which is coming through the state.
While the society is immersed in the never-ending political tangles and one-upmanship resulting from a conflict of interests between the state and self of those who are elected to represent the aspirations of the people, the deadly but silent menace of drug abuse is rapidly spreading its tentacles in the state, and despite numerous and increasingly larger hauls on record, the state authorities are evidently unable to make much headway into stemming the flow of the drugs into Manipur.
The task, however, is easier said than done. According to a report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Myanmar is the world’s second-largest opium poppy grower, beaten only by Afghanistan. Shan State remains the center of Myanmar’s opium activities, accounting for 92 per cent of opium poppy cultivation, with the remainder located mainly in Kachin State. In 2013, it was estimated that 57,814 hectares were under opium poppy cultivation, a significant increase of 13 % compared to 2012. Despite eradication efforts, higher yields combined with a rise in cultivation saw Myanmar opium production increase 26 % in 2013 to an estimated 870 tonnes - the highest since assessments by UNODC and the Myanmar Government began in 2002.
With a neighbor as notorious and uncooperative as Myanmar, the task is cut out not only for the state authorities fighting the drug menace, but even the national agency the Narcotics Control Bureau set up to endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drugs injurious to health have not been able to make any significant breakthrough given the fact that another mammoth challenge owing to the proximity to the largest producers of heroin and hashish in the world-the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent (Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran) -has made India’s borders vulnerable to drug trafficking. Indigenous production of low grade heroin as well as various psychotropic and prescription drugs and their growing demand in the neighbouring countries and international market have added a new dimension to the problem of drug trafficking.
Evidently, the biggest hurdle to controlling the drug menace has been established to be the nexus between drug traffickers, organised criminal networks, corrupt public figures and politicians and terrorists which has created a force powerful enough to cause instability in the country. Money generated through drug trade has been used to fund various insurgent and terrorist movements. For instance, it has been estimated that money generated from the illegal sale of narcotics accounted for 15 per cent of the finances of militant groups in Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, Sikh militant groups in Punjab and Northeast insurgent groups like the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) NSCN (IM) are known to channellise drugs into India to finance their operations as mentioned in a report of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). The study continues that 70 per cent of the drugs are transported over land makes the land borders corridors, through which drugs are trafficked into the country. Their vulnerability can be assessed by the fact that 70 per cent of the heroin and 40 per cent of opium that are being trafficked are seized from states along the borders. Easy availability of drugs in the border areas makes their abuse rampant among the local populace as is evident from drug consumption trends and patterns in Manipur, Mizoram, Punjab and Rajasthan.
The pertinent questions right now: what happened to the seized drugs which should have run into tons by now? What about the so-called big boss/es running the drug cartel in the state- has the state authority been able to unearth any significant information and intelligence regarding the identity and operation of any of them? If so, has any practical and sustainable plan of action been laid out in this regard?
Shooting the messenger will have no impact on the people who are really in control of the trafficking and dealing. It is also questionable as to how huge shipments of drugs have repeatedly been able to get past the seemingly thorough and time consuming frisking carried out with ardour by the security forces in various places along the highway to and from the border. The fight against drug calls for unconventional and innovative means as the dangers posed by drugs transcends religion, borders or social strata. Only a determined, honest and concerted effort following a sustainable and broad- based plan of action will stand any chance of achieving success. The cooperation and support of CSOs, NGOs and local bodies will make the difference between success and failure.

Threatened democracy

Thanks to Article 370 - a clause in the constitution which gave it significant autonomy, including its own constitution, a separate flag, and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defence and communications - Indian-administered Kashmir has held a special position within the country. On august 5, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as the governing party had promised in its 2019 election manifesto, India revoked that seven-decade-long privileged status. The Hindu nationalist BJP has long opposed Article 370 and had repeatedly called for its abolishment. In what was described by many as a coup-like situation, telephone networks and the internet were cut off in the region in the days before the presidential order was announced. Public gatherings were banned, and tens of thousands of troops were sent in. Tourists were told to leave Kashmir under warnings of a terror threat. Two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, - the Indian state which encompasses the disputed territory - along with more prominent public figures were placed under house arrest. India’s parliament also passed a bill splitting Indian Occupied Kashmir or, to use the more politically correct term- Indian-administered Kashmir into two territories governed directly by Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir, and the remote, mountainous region of Ladakh. Understandably China, which shares a disputed border with India in Ladakh, has objected to the reorganisation and accused Delhi of undermining its territorial sovereignty. Also, as expected, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to challenge India’s actions at the UN security council, and take the matter to the International Criminal Court.
Looking a little further beyond the border, China is also playing out its own version of the process vis-à-vis Hong Kong which is facing a major political crisis as it heads into its 11th weekend of mass demonstrations. What started as a movement against a controversial law has expanded into something much bigger. Over the past few months, the demonstrations have evolved from millions marching through the streets, to groups of protesters in hard hats storming government headquarters and shutting down the city’s international airport for two days. While the majority of protesters have been peaceful, frustration is building on all sides. Protesters are now demanding greater democracy and an inquiry into alleged police brutality during past demonstrations. And as unrest intensifies, Beijing’s tone is becoming increasingly heated. Hong Kong belongs to China, but it has its own currency, political system and cultural identity. Many Hong Kong residents don’t see themselves as Chinese, but rather as Hong Kongers. The city was a colony and territory of the United Kingdom for more than 150 years, until the British handed it back over to China in 1997. Today, Hong Kong’s legal system still mirrors the British model, prizing transparency and due process.
To many political observers and analysts, the similar sequence of developments points to a deeper and more disconcerting agenda at work- a process that unfolds gradually and in which power is concentrated in the hands of one strong leader, who often claims to understand the “will of the people” and to govern in its name. Autocratisation.
According to a long term study by political scientists Anna Lührmann and Staffan Lindberg, director and vice-director respectively of the V-Dem Institute (“Varieties of Democracy”) at the University of Gothenburg: the biggest international research project on measuring democratic quality; involving 3,000 researchers around the world , there has been three waves of democratisation, each followed by a wave of autocratisation – the overall story of global political development from 1900 to 2017.
According to the authors,the current third wave of autocratisation has new features: while earlier autocratisation took place in countries where such movements were already in progress, this one is happening mostly in democracies. In other words, while in earlier “classic” waves autocratic regimes came to power through foreign invasions or military coup, today the process is subtler and more gradual, and often camouflaged by legal changes and are often characterized by overriding civil liberties and bringing opposition, media, and civil society to heel after coming to power through democratic elections.  “The third wave of autocratisation is real and endangers democracies,” Lührmann and Lindberg conclude. According to them, almost every case of autocratisation in a democracy in the past has led to the countries turning into an autocracy.”Very few episodes of autocratisation starting in democracies have ever been stopped before countries become autocracies”, they write.
Are we in the midst of a change, albeit subtle and gradual, is real and underway, while our elected leaders are too busy appeasing their political benefactors and masters to read the signs? A point we need to ponder upon in light of the present political and social developments.

SHEIPAL observes 13th Foundation Day

IT News
Imphal, Aug. 23

‘Sheihek Sheireng Sheipal Shemgat Lup’ (SHEIPAL), a body of lyricists and poets , observed its 13th Foundation Day at Lamyanba Shanlen, Palace Compound yesterday.
Yumnam Ongbi Joybala, Social Worker, Ngangbam Ongbi Bimolata, Proprietor Ningthibi Collection and Ranjit Singh Irungba, President SHEIPAL , attended as dignitaries.
A book edited by KC Gita called ‘PUKNINGI SEIROL’ was released on the occasion and a collection of audio CD – by Okendro Khundongbam called Yeningthagi Ayukshida was also released.
The organization conferred life time achievement to lyricist Jodha C Sanasam.  And Dr. Kamala Serol Mana 2019 was conferred to Haoba Yaima.  

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Restoring public education system

Education is considered as the cornerstone of socio-economic and cultural development of a society or country. Education has emerged as the most important single input in promoting human resource development, achieving rapid economic development and technological progress, creating a social order, based on the virtues of freedom, social justice and equal opportunities. Education plays a vital role in the present world, for not only raising the standard of living but also as a mechanism to prevent conflict situations. It has been widely regarded as the best opportunity for an individual to acquire and broaden the knowledge and skills to make informed judgments and choices for a better and fulfilling life.
With the recent unfortunate incident where a minor girl was allegedly murdered inside a private school hostel and the issues and disruptions that followed, the focus is once again on the education system and the manner or method of implementation of laws and regulations in the state. Much debated, discussed and deliberated as it is, the condition of government schools in the state still portrays a sorry figure, statistically and figuratively. Preceding governments have framed policies, announced ‘radical’ changes and promised revolutionary steps but nothing has yet to materialize from all the efforts. The present government is no exception, and the government schools remain as a symbol of hopelessness, a last resort and refuge for the utterly helpless and rejected lot, if not worse. Shunned by the high and mighty, these schools remain mere numbers with nothing much more to write about, except of its failures and hopelessness and above all, its potentials.
It is these stigmas- the accepted belief that there is no future for students in government schools which drove the parents to clamor for private schools in the state. This rush fuelled the scramble for establishment of more private schools to the extent that it is now practically impossible to control or manage them, not that the state government has done much in this regard on their part till now. Over the past few decades, lower middle-class and middle-class families have come to believe that private schools will ensure their children a bright career. The subsequent mushrooming of English medium private schools have led to the decline of public schools and many public schools that once teemed with children are facing closure. Others have shrunk and cater to a homogeneous section of children from working class and migrant families.

Data from the Department of Primary and Secondary Education reveal that many schools in the state were “temporarily closed” during this academic year. Schools were also merged with another. While officials argue that the department never declares a school “closed” — the official word for it is “zero enrolment” school — the fact is that a large number of public schools function with 10 to 15 students and one or two teachers, or with no students and only teachers.
The school education sector thus becomes a happy hunting ground for profiteers who do not give the slightest regard to the actual welfare and development of the students. On the other hand, the state government is still shouting hoarse of plans to overhaul and revamp the government schools, with even a few ‘model schools’ to show for it. It is still spending a considerable amount of money and resources with very little expectations. Evidently, there are very serious and grave lapses and mistakes in the system of government education system, from planning to implementation and evaluation. It is only when these faults are identified that corrective measures can be formulated and taken up. 
Another big hurdle in the effort to improve the government schools in the state would be the patronizing attitude of the government authorities, partly from the fact that their children are in private schools or in schools outside the state. It would be interesting to observe their response and commitment to the development and welfare of these government schools if their children are made to study in these schools.
Where there is a will there is a way, and so if the state government put their heart and soul into it, a solution is never impossible. All it would require is determination, perseverance, dedication and willingness to go the extra mile. A good public education system can contribute to state-building and reduce- if not remove- much of the social hurdles on the path of progress and prosperity. With so much at stake, shouldn’t the state government roll up its sleeve and make a real and genuine effort to change the society?