Administering Manipur Crisis: Policy Illiteracy Coupled By Bluffing The Public

Administering Manipur Crisis: Policy Illiteracy Coupled By Bluffing The Public

By – Amar Yumnam
Imphal, June 24:

In my previous column I had talked of the visible manifestation of policy illiteracy in the governance of public administration by the present government in Manipur. What is much more painful is that this policy illiteracy is also coupled by the indulgence in bluffing the public by the powers that be. This characteristic to bluff the general public is very well established by what the Minister of Works of the State has tried to rationalise the non-invitation of the Chief Minister of Manipur to a very important meeting to discuss the issues of the State and convened by the Home Minister of India. I shall come to this again, but let me put in passing the present context in clear terms for the present government does seem unaware of the social, economic and geographic realities of the State. Well, by the way, these are also issues we have raised many a times to draw the attention of the members of the powers that be.
The recent parliamentary elections and the candidates the public have chosen to represent the State establish beyond any doubt that the social space of the present government in Manipur has become very small and much smaller than that of the main opposition party as clearly evident from the unprecedented margin of votes polled in favour by the winning candidates; to put in plain language, the connection linking the present government to the local communities is weak across the State in both wide and depth.
The sharp decline in social space of the present government is not something which has arisen out of the blue. An inter-ethnic conflict has been happening for more than a year and this government has not shown any sign whatsoever of evolving a policy to control and ultimately put the conflict to a halt; the government only manifested a sign of loss in the turmoil. The trust of the people on the willingness and capability of the government has naturally to suffer a nosedive with this kind of ‘qualification’. The characteristics of the parties arousing the conflict and the demands being put forth are invariably poignant points for a government in a region like Manipur to look back to history and look into the contextual political geography. While the foundation of Indian history is the civilisational approach, the one of Manipur is an evolutionary one (the recent book of Naorem Joykumar on the Manipuri Women contains a nice description of the evolutionary process of social Manipur).Any meaningful and sustainable social evolution has to have a geographic context. Unlike States like Madhya Pradesh, Delhi or Bihar, the Manipur political geography has had an international dimension right from the evolution of history. This international dimension has been a major facilitator for the present crisis to emerge.
It in this background that the Works Minister, Govindas Konthoujam, rationalised the non-invitation of the Chief Minister to an important meeting in Delhi under the Home Affairs Minister of India and discussing Manipur issues.
The blatant bluff of the Works Minister was that the Chief Minister was not invited as the meeting related to discussion on security issues; the various comments in the public domain against the incapacity of the CM must have put the CM himself with no courage to respond and Govindas must have got into the scene just to please his boss. I have some questions for the Works Minister. Was it not better to put it straight that the CM has been removed of the relevant powers instead of trying to bluff the people with that kind of confident facial display? Still, we can talk of security purely on a law-and-order terms if it is a public protest of a few days. But Manipur has been facing the present crisis for more than a year. This has Social, Ethnic, Territorial, Interrelationship, and Economic Security dimensions. Well, whatever the case it may be, is there any case that the Chief Minister should be barred from attending the discussion?
Here I remember two things. The first one relates to childhood days. I started reading local dailies, particularly the Ngasi, during 1963-64. By 1967-68, our classmates started sharing with each other whatever we have read earlier in the day. In this, we used to inform each other that a Minister has said so and took pride in learning about it. Those days the statements related mainly to development interventions instead of political manoeuvrings in the present times. The second one relates to a comment made by a former Vice Chancellor of Manipur University, Prof C Amuba in one of the personal discussions. He expressed pains in the display as All-Learned by the present generation of politicians the moment they win elections.
What we expect and Manipur demands is Governance with honesty and a proper understanding of the social needs of the land and the people. The present government must endeavour to live-up to this. Any sensible government must give attention to the lost social space, explore the reasons for this loss and rebuild trust of the people. The land and the people cannot afford a Minister bluffing the public with a display of all-learned.

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