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Beyond the hills

by Rinku Khumukcham
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”People’s participation is becoming the central issue of our time,” says UNDP in its Human Development Report 1993. In order for the people to practice effective participation, communication and connectivity are the keys. The myriad issues and disruptions being faced by our society can be traced back to the lack of participation of the public in governance and determining policies, or rather the practice of keeping the public away from having their say or expressing their concerns over most social issues for so long. In a way, it is the manifestation of the stirrings of a collective realization of a repressed society who have been denied the right to effective participation and inclusion in the overall shaping of the society. But as with all things without exception, the situation is set to change. The recent signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) among Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, Government of Manipur and Airports Authority of India for implementation of Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) in the state with the objective of facilitating regional air connectivity by making air travel affordable through the collaborative support of the central government, state government and airport operators by providing concessions on regional routes and other financial incentives to the airline operators is a much needed step in the right direction. The ambitious scheme- ambitious because of the challenges it entails from the inhospitable and often risky terrain to the apprehensive and suspicious natives in the hinterlands, not to mention the omnipresent danger of a few myopic armed groups jeopardizing the whole exercise with a single blast- has the potential to make a dramatic turnaround of the ground situation we are experiencing today. The central and state planners, when identifying and formulating development programmes, will be able to consult with a wider reach of people in order to take into account their needs, attitudes and traditional knowledge. Only with increased and effective communication will the common people become the principal actors to make development programmes in the state successful as development involves change and new ways of doing things which, in the absence of effective communication, will remain a tantalizingly unreachable possibility.
Connectivity has been widely accepted as the cornerstone for regional cooperation and integration and has rightly been increasingly pursued in countries which have felt the need and the benefit for it. The impetus of an increased connectivity and communication amongst the various far-flung places in the state as well the North Eastern region of the country especially in terms of trade and commerce have been more than adequately documented and studied.
But more than the economics of it, the possibility and the opportunity such an exercise presents for integration and assimilation of cultures and traditions is what should excite and enthuse us to support the scheme. Increasing connectivity and communications helps in breaking the barriers put up by apprehensions and hype of the unknown and the uncertain. Politicking by various leaders and representatives of the numerous ethnic groups and communities for their self-serving agenda will no longer be effective once people from these communities come to the realization that ideologies, identities, unique histories, common aspirations and ambitions are but names given for attributes which pales before real friendship, understanding and mutual respect which is a natural progression of communication and connectivity.

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