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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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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?

Nature- the answer to global warming.

“I am Gorilla I am flowers, animals, I am nature. Man koko love. Earth koko love. But man stupid. Koko sorry … koko cry. Time hurry.. fix earth. Help earth.. hurry… protect earth..nature see you… thank you.”- a compelling videotaped message left by Koko, a captive and trained Gorilla who died last year at the age of forty seven with a communicative skill of more than two thousand spoken words in English and over a thousand signs.
Today, we no longer need an expert to explain the effects of climate change and the resulting global warming. Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.
Described as the most important report ever published in the 30-year history of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and an “ear-splitting wake-up call to the world”, the new report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C made headline news around the world with its stark message that limiting warming to 1.5 °C would require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society. The report stresses the huge benefits to human welfare, ecosystems and sustainable economic development in keeping warming to 1.5 °C compared to 2 °C, or higher. While previous estimates focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by 2°C, this report shows that many of the adverse impacts of climate change will come at the 1.5°C mark.
The report also highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2ºC. The report underlines that we are already seeing the consequences of 1 °C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes.
Despite the overwhelming evidences and negative experiences of the consistently rising temperature, we have yet to see a sustainable, committed and concerted effort on the part of the government both at the national and state level to implement policies to counter the situation affecting the world without exception. While the problem is a global in nature, the solution should start at the grass root level, literally and figuratively. And the solution should start with finding the root cause of the problem, which differs with different region and way of life. It is therefore imperative that a thorough study is carried out to understand the ways in which the people in the state is damaging the environment and contributing to global warming and draw up policies and programs with its effective implementation to curb and hopefully reverse the situation.
One of the best ways to ensure effective implementation of the policies is to mobilize the public into contributing towards understanding and preserving nature and the environment, and a few passionate groups of people are making efforts to spread awareness of the importance of preserving the environment and appreciating the beauty of nature like Green Manipur and Lamkoi, to name just a few. It is only when one develops a connection with the natural environment and begin appreciating the beauty nature has to offer that the urge to protect and preserve it will automatically emerge. And there is no dearth of natural beauty in our state. We only need to create better infrastructure and improve facilities for exploring and utilizing these gifts of nature without damaging or altering the surroundings. The most prominent example of such a gift of nature is the Langol hill range which is being visited by numerous nature and fitness lovers daily as it is perfectly situated with the potential to be converted into a natural short hiking trail for the people of the state and even visitors looking for a short hike without going out to the far hills. There are also numerous places which can rival the most famous natural tourist destinations and hiking trails of the world. We only need to feel the connection with nature to start appreciating and think up ways to preserve it. the state government need to take these passionate nature enthusiasts into confidence and work with them at the grass root level to initiate positive change. It would be unacceptable and perhaps too late if we wait for another Koko to tell us that we have failed and destroyed mother nature. We have to tune in and sync up with nature and not the other way around to ensure our continued survival.

Doctors: soft scapegoats of a faulty health system?

A protest staged jointly by doctors and students of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) inside the campus against the summary suspension of a senior resident doctor once again brings to the fore the deplorable and much contradicted public health care system in the state. While it is still too early and beyond the scope of this paper to delve into the legal aspects of the unfortunate incident, it would not be out of place to state that doctors has been the target of revenge and rebuttal for as long as one would care to recollect. And while a loss of life is always an unfortunate and saddening experience, it would be wrong to put the blame squarely on the doctor or doctors attending to the patients without proper enquiry and investigation even if any foul play or accusations of negligence comes up.
Consider the statistics- according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report of 2017, in India, there is one government allopathic doctor for every 10,189 people, one government hospital bed for every 2,046 people and one state-run hospital for every 90,343 people. You don’t need an epidemic, however predictable, for the public health system to collapse. It is a matter of routine that patients share beds and doctors are overworked. India has a little over one million modern medicine (allopathy) doctors to treat its population of 1.3 billion people. Of these, only around 10% work in the public health sector, shows data from the National Health Profile 2017. Simply put, India doesn’t have enough hospitals, doctors, nurses and health workers, and since health is a state subject, disparities and inequities in the quality of care and access to health varies widely not just between states but also between urban and rural areas. Under the circumstances, it is not only understandable but also expected that the overworked and overstressed doctors and other hospital staffs working with inadequate infrastructure and facilities simply cannot cater to the needs and satisfaction of each and every sick and infirm.
Another social aspect of growing concern is the mob culture that has increasingly played havoc to the functioning of law and order in the state. Incidentally, Manipur has become the first state to take a serious step against increasing incidents of mob violence. Manipur Assembly passed ‘The Manipur Protection from Mob Violence Bill, 2018’ on December 21, The bill moved by Chief Minister N Biren Singh recommends rigorous life imprisonment for those involved in mob violence if it results in the death of a victim. And in addition to life imprisonment, the law also recommends a fine of Rs 5 lakh for those involved in mob lynching. Perpetrators may also face public humiliation through exclusion from public services and might be forced to leave his/her home without consent. The bill was introduced in the Assembly to curb increasing incidents of mob violence in the state. The Supreme Court has also condemned incidents of mob violence and lynching across the country and urged parliament to enact a law to deal with such incidents which threaten rule of law and the country’s social fabric. The court also issued a slew of directions to state governments, including preventive, remedial and punitive steps to deal with the crime. One can only hope that with stringent and timely implementation of such preventive laws and regulations much of the wanton destructions and social disturbances will be curbed.
Doctors, being humans will make mistakes and there is no denying the simple fact, more so given the stress and constant duress faced in their line of duty. There are procedures to be followed to determine the allegations and investigations to be carried out to establish facts. A summary suspension without presenting the opportunity to explain the situation and ground reality from their perspectives reduces the morality and self respect of the doctors and projects them in a light of doubtful professional efficiency and integrity. A more comprehensive investigation into the working conditions, restraints and constraints under which the doctors and other health workers in the state are performing their duties will shed more light into the overall condition of healthcare in the state and will hopefully shed light into ways to draw up a comprehensive and systematic policies to prevent any unfortunate and unwanted incidents in the future and stop presenting doctors as scapegoat for any and every unfortunate incidents, whether alleged or real. Death is inevitable and doctors should not be held accountable for every death, however unfortunate it always is.
Another area that needs immediate focus to alleviate health care system in the state is the improvement in quality of services in sub-centers (SCs), primary health center (PHCs) and Community Health Centers CHCs) with assignment of more fully operational first referral units (FRUs) of existing facilities (district hospitals, sub-divisional hospitals, CHCs) etc. National rural health mission, if efficiently implemented, can significantly improve and make positive changes in the overall health care system of the country and the state.

Lapses of duty and knowledge- a recurring roadblock to effective administration.

The law is important because it acts as a guideline as to what is accepted in society. Without it there would be conflicts between social groups and communities. The law allows for easy adoption to changes that occur in the society. It also remains the most important tool for dispensing justice and compensate for injustices. But the most overlooked aspect of it is that it has not been utilized to its potential to deter and punish social disruptors and defaulters of socially accepted ethics and behavior who are in conflict with the law and are often termed criminals. And so it is expected and assumed that those working in the social sphere or are entrusted with responsibilities by the government - at least in their areas of duty or specialization- to have ample knowledge of the law and are well versed with its relevant applications.
Recent developments regarding the number of human traffickers being arrested from different areas of the state and their subsequent handling by the authorities, however, throws up a number of questions which would surely make a lot of individuals wriggle in their official seats with uneasiness. The most pertinent issue being that one out of the eight alleged human traffickers caught by the state security was released on bail due to the failure of the state machinery- read the police- to file a chargesheet even after 180 days of making the arrest/s as stipulated by law. It is also a matter of fact that the rescued individuals hailing from Nepal numbering 179 including 147 females and 32 males were handed over by the Chief Minister of Manipur to a delegation of Nepal embassy led by Counsellor Prakash Adhikari in an official event held at the indoor stadium, Khuman Lampak Imphal on Sunday the 17th February of the current year.
In these turn of events, a very vital procedure to initiate and complete the prosecution of the alleged traffickers was overlooked or neglected- that of recording the statements of the rescued victims before sending them away to their homeland. Section 164 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 dealing with Recording of confessions and statements states: Any Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate may, whether or not he has jurisdiction in the case, record any confession or statement made to him in the course of an investigation under this Chapter or under any other law for the time being in force, or at any time afterwards before the commencement of the inquiry or trial: Provided that no confession shall be recorded by a police officer on whom any power of a Magistrate has been conferred under any law for the time being in force. And in the absence of a recorded statement any attempt to bring the traffickers to book have fallen flat- a significant triumph for the traffickers and a smack in the ear for the authorities who are responsible for the blunder.
Evidently, somewhere along the long line of formalities and procedures, a huge lapse of knowledge or duty has occurred. Interestingly, there was ample time to remedy the shortcomings if the concern authorities have put their heart and mind to it but obviously chose not to. A blunder of this magnitude and significance cannot be passed off as an oversight or ignorance.
Was it that the urge to publicize and politicize the issue proved greater than the need to practice discretion and follow procedures to investigate into the matter? Was it pure and utter incompetency and collective ignorance of the state machinery to have led to the present situation? Was it the spineless individuals in authority who lacked the will and the gut to stand up to pressure which resulted in the failure to take up proper procedures into the investigation? Questions that need definitive answers if such lapses of knowledge or duty is to be prevented in the future. The most important concern is preventing hapless individuals from being exploited and proper focus should be made to generate awareness of the menace of human trafficking and the ground reality at present. Only a dedicated and appropriate effort can garner support and cooperation from every quarter which is vital in making any undertaking- whether legal or otherwise to reach its logical conclusion.