By: Amar Yumnam
Imphal, Dec 15:
It was in 1887 that Woodrow Wilson clearly explained the purpose of studying administration as “first, what the government can properly and successfully do, and, secondly, how it can do these proper things with the utmost possible efficiency and at the least possible cost either – of money or of energy.’’ In contemporary times and with the rise in the width and depth of the role of government in creating and sustaining a satisfactory level of life for the common people, the study of the character and efficiency of government has multiplied across social science disciplines; in fact, Governance Index is a very popular yardstick of concern. As late as the early 1980s, the character and the efficiency of governments were matters of deep concern; in 1983 Good sell wrote in his The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic thus: “Bureaucracy, then, is despised and disparaged. It is attacked in the press, popular magazines, and best sellers. It is denounced by the political right and left. It is assaulted by moulders of culture and professors of academia. It is castigated by economists, sociologists, policy analysts, political scientists, organization theorists, and social psychologists. It is charged with a wide array of crimes, which we have grouped under failure to perform; abuse of political power; and repression of employees, clients, and people in general. In short, bureaucracy stands as a splendid hate object.” But this global perspective underwent a significant transformation on the basis of the Singapore experience. In 2005 David Heenan announced in his book titled Flight Capital: The Alarming Exodus of America’s Best and Brightest that “Modern Singapore, home to 4.3 million people, is a model of efficiency. It is envied for its prosperity, cleanliness, social order, great shopping, and world-class dining. Asia’s Mr Clean is the kind of place anyone would want to live in – in other words, a home to the world . . . Rules are predictable, and government officials are helpful, if somewhat officious. Simply stated, Singapore works.” The world realised that, with efficient administration and consequent good governance, things can be achieved. Well, this is not an explanation of the scenario prevailing in Manipur.
Besides these, the internal and the external dynamics of the Singapore economy are much different from those of Manipur. I can assert with surety that, if the present circumstances of economy and society continue with the prevailing character and efficiency of governance, Manipur will never be able to get even close to what Singapore has shown.
Very recently a very positive news emerged from a research laboratory in California that the Sun’s process of generation of energy can now be followed on Earth as well – the nuclear fusion. Another interesting social news also emerged from California – the richest man, Elon Musk, was booed by a huge gathering in the Twitter Headquarters at San Francisco; consequent upon his recent acquisition of the Twitter, he has removed quite a few employees. While the scientific achievement is clearly to be celebrated, the second social event also has something to be admired. In Manipur, the absence of any scope for positive feelings for a dependable livelihood for the youths and the behaviour of a few top political leaders to exploit the pitiable condition of the youths for fractional and factional mobilisation, such a social behaviour would not come forth while there could be competition for subservience.
Compared to these unfolding, the news on Manipur during these few days relate to:
A. Singapore (read Imphal) would have to move without supply of water;
B. The wintry characteristics are yet to touch Manipur even by the second week of the month of December;
C. The villages in the border areas oppose the establishment of police outposts in their areas;
D. The fishing community in the Loktak say ‘No’ to any intending step by the government and charging the present Chairman of the Loktak Development Authority, Moirangthem Asnikumar, as liar.
The last two items have a lot to do with the prevailing character and trust being commanded among the general public by the existing government. The villagers being averse to the proposal to create police outposts imply that the present relationship of interdependence between the government and the public welfare are very weak if not non-existent. Instead of a stable and assured livelihood, the villagers feel that they would be marginal losers because of the intervention by the police personnel instead of enhancing their level of welfare. The development principles too would say the villagers as right – the Marginal Benefit from the Police Outposts would be less than the Marginal Costs borne by the villages.
The border villages are in fact marked by the general poverty of connectivity, absence of modern interventions for enhancing the quality of life, and assurances of social intervention for future better lives for the children. While developmental interventions are absent but thinking of controlling mechanism is not even democratic at the core; at most they can go together but the latter cannot precede.
Whatever the matter, we must realise that the issues are so interrelated: (a)The inability to supply water to the city of Singapore (read Imphal) has a lot to do with the strength of the rivers flowing in the state; (b)the condition of the Loktak and other water bodies have a lot to do with the level of rainfalls in the mountain areas of Manipur; (c)the conditions of the rivers and the lakes are not unrelated issues; (d)the rainfall, water availability and water levels have a lot to do with what happens in the mountains of Manipur; (e) what happens in the mountains of Manipur have a lot to do with what development path Manipur is following, and so on.
While the announcement that water would not be supplied to the public is easy to be made, the question the government needs to answer is: Did the issue arise all of sudden today and no prior information was there? What about the responsibility and accountability of the government in assuring the sustenance of livelihood of the common people in a democracy? Now that the problem is there, is there any indication that the government has started applying it mind on the issue and the interrelated dimensions to evolve a long-term solution? This is important to enable the public to rationalise the current restrictions.
Thinking about the Loktak cannot happen without involving the Fishing Community, the entire population of the state, and bringing in considerations of the socio-economic dynamics in the mountain areas. But immediately after an Asian Development Bank team left Imphal, the issue has arisen that the villages of the Fishing Community find it difficult to trust the government and even charges the current Chairman of the Loktak Development Authority, Moirangthem Asnikumar, as repeat liar; this news must have already reached Bangkok.
In fine, becoming like Singapore is not something which can happen by shouting from a microphone and exploiting some future-diffident youths for social noises. It is not even important. The most important thing today is to Make Manipur As Manipur. This calls for application of mind with full commitment, appreciate the contextual diversity and relatedness, and articulate relevant inclusive policy. Further, policy cannot be the product of a Single Leader.