By: Amar Yumnam
I listen to songs very infrequently. But I have more than hit a century listening to the song sung by our daughter-like Linthoi Shagolsem, Chaodaba Leite Loina Chaoee; I listened to this in every mood of mine. I even make the babies to listen to it. Now why this has happened? First, the lyrics are absolutely more powerful than the various socio-economic commentaries I have been writing for more than three decades. But if someone like me were the one singing, all the lyrics would go haywire and the charm would go to the winds. Here comes the second reason; Linthoi sings it with an attractive voice and in an absolutely casual-a-la normal manner. I have fallen in love with this song. There is an absolute convergence between the voice and mannerism of Linthoi and the lyrics of the song; it is this convergence which makes the difference even to a person who has never had a craze for songs.
It is the principle of convergence which is paramount in public policy-making as well. It is the absence or rather the non-caring for this and announcing whimsical statements as public policies that has led to the current Public Policy Disaster in Manipur. To begin with, there came a wonderful lyric from the government as Go to Hills, but there was no further effort to supply the accompanying Convergent Elements to convert the lyrics to a successful exercise. Thus, the hegemonic mind-set of the governance of the day got manifested to the public. Further the War on Drugs displayed in fuller view the hegemonic approach of the government on issues close to the heart and minds of the public; the public are fully informed of the powerful agents involved and their modus operandi. In other words, there was very little convergence between the pronounced lyrics and the field presentations of the lyrics. Thus, the general public were naturally swarmed by feelings of doubt on the level of credibility to be attached to government pronouncements. It is in this background that the liquor decision came. This has completed the circle of non-convergence with the contextual needs of the land and the people at this critical juncture. Now the non-convergence between the government and the public has reached a stage where the gamblers have no qualms in snatching weapons from the state-law enforcing (police) agency and returning them again; the gamblers are not to be blamed as in this we find a manifestation of the convergence between the lack of credibility of the government and the general behavioural response of the public to government initiatives. We are also hearing of people coming with a bagful of money to the Editor of the Imphal Times to compromise on a news item relating to a wing of the government.
It is exactly at this point that what William Roth wrote in 2002 in his book The Assault on Social Policy becomes very relevant: “One’s fundamental conception of politics is a critical divide that separate shaves from have-nots and that helps make the former the more influential group. Add to that haves’ greater power and money, as well as their control of the media, public relations, and bureaucracies, and clearly the imbalance in power falls decisively in favour of haves. The temptation to believe we can do nothing, to become sceptics or cynics, or, even worse, to use our power against other have-nots may be alluring. Though an easy out, this temptation is just another myth. Because we may know love, friendship, justice, and freedom in our personal lives while not finding them in our social lives does not mean we should readily assume that such virtues are infantile and uncivilized—in short, that they must be changed given the demands of the real world. In a decent world, such virtues should be possible. Have-nots should seek power by reasserting the traditional meaning of politics.” (p. 22)
Manipur today is in such a scenario with the people realising that, in Roth’s words, “Democracy is not restricted to the vote.” The converging strength to this has been provided by the government with her whimsical pronouncements of public policies. The government has just attempted to arouse sentiments by such non-coherent announcements, but arousals can never be sustained for long for the internal inconsistencies would eat themselves out. Instigating a few mobilised youths for incoherent short-run objective would not go far. Instigating a few for short-term support would not go far. Instigating self to only go for immediate returns would not take a political leader far. Instigation can never be a political and governance weapon to cover distance.
It is only inspiration which would be lasting and sustain the convergence between governance and the public. Only development would occur in such an atmosphere. This is where the present government of Manipur should be applying its mind on how to go for generating an atmosphere of inspiration among the public. Cohesiveness is the guiding principle here. A sportsperson can be a competitive sportsperson for only a limited period of years. The state cannot say that, once the active period is over, it has nothing to do. It’s the state’s bounden duty that the few years of activity sustain the life of the sportsperson with dignity. But the responsibility of this caring is not only of a policy on Sports and the relevant cell of the government; it is a shared commitment of all. Caring the sportsperson has to link to a policy for housing, policy for educating his/her off-springs, policy for health. These would again be linked to a policy for infrastructure for education, health, etc. All these would again need to subject to an environment policy.
Manipur needs today a Public Policy enunciating the avowed social objectives of the land and the people. While the details of each sector cannot be incorporated in this, we can see to it that every action by the government complies with the enunciated principles of social policy. “Whether we believe that in the long run democracy, justice, and decency will prevail or that they are doomed does not discount that have-nots can participate in politics and in the formation of policy. What is needed for an intelligent politics of have-nots are work, dedicated thinking, action, and rationality…..
What we expect of a polity includes what we expect of our political economy: a high measure of efficiency. We do not wish people to work hard for nothing, or almost nothing. Nor do we wish resources to be squandered. We expect there to be a safety net so that being out of work does not mean starvation, homelessness, or other outrageous fortunes. Further, since people should not have to beg for their survival, we expect such a safety net to be a matter of right, not public largesse or private charity. We do not expect workers to be wage slaves but to be able to express a substantial measure of freedom in and through their work.….. The market is a tool, subservient to conscious democratic politics. Decisions of what are and what are not to be market commodities; when, where, and how to regulate them; policies of taxation; and the various social policies….must be open to continual democratic change. Equality of opportunity is routinely expected and promised. Still, one expects thereto be substantial equality of results. The present difference between have sand have-nots is unacceptable, and that this difference may well increase in the future is monstrous. Democracy is to be expected in the organization of work, and hence so too a diminution of bureaucracy, hierarchy, and domination. Leisure, too, should be democratic, if only because the lessons of work are complexly transferred to the conditions of leisure, and so the two are related… Such expectations are not at odds with others equally reasonable, are not internally contradictory, and are justifiable.”
If Manipur is to be saved from the current atmosphere of public policy disaster, we need a government committed to halting the assault on society and attend to what have been said. The King is Dead, Long Live the King.
(The author is a Visiting Professor, CESS: Hyderabad)