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Manipur Crisis: People, Governance and Coherence

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Manipur Crisis: People, Governance and Coherence

By – Amar Yumnam
Imphal, May 27:

In my column last week, I had argued that the Manipur Crisis is a social one and the interventions needed to resolve the crisis should necessarily be oriented towards addressing the social dimensions. The urgency of this understanding is paramount. First, the articulation for violent responses at the individual and group levels is getting wider and deeper. Second, the absence of application of mind on the governance side for early solution to the crisis is becoming increasingly evident. The biggest manifestation of this is visible in the non-attempt to embrace the historical and traditional settlers and arrive at a common framework. Let me requote John Stuart Mill in a shorter form to emphasise the need for a social approach to understand the underlying issues and evolve a collective approach for long term solution: “we must endeavour to get down to what is at the root of each, and avail ourselves of the amount of truth which exists in either.”
While evolving a shared understanding and a common framework for future lines of action, I keep emphasising the social dimension. This is particularly so in the present crisis – people are still fighting. Here we may recall an Austrian School of Thought to understand the Economy [read Social]. Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) wrote in his book Human Action emphasising an action undertaken by the humans thus: “Action is not simply giving preference. Man also shows preference in situations in which things and events are unavoidable or are believed to be so. Thus a man may prefer sunshine to rain and may wish that the sun would dispel the clouds. He who only wishes and hopes does not interfere actively with the course of events and with the shaping of his own destiny. But acting man chooses, determines, and tries to reach an end. Of two things both of which he cannot have together he selects one and gives up the other. Action therefore always involves both taking and renunciation.
“To express wishes and hopes and to announce planned action may be forms of action in so far as they aim in themselves at the realization of a certain purpose. But they must not be confused with the actions to which they refer. They are not identical with the actions they announce, recommend, or reject. Action is a real thing. What counts is a man’s total behaviour, and not his talk about planned but not realized acts.
On the other hand action must be clearly distinguished from the application of labour. Action means the employment of means for the attainment of ends. As a rule one of the means employed is the acting man’s labour. But this is not always the case. Under special conditions a word is all that is needed. He who gives orders or interdictions may act without any expenditure of labour. To talk or not to talk, to smile or to remain serious, may be action. To consume and to enjoy are no less action than to abstain from accessible consumption and enjoyment.”
A more simple understanding of the Austrian school would be, as put in a just published text: “Core to understanding the economy [read social] is recognizing that it is about human actions and interactions. In fact, the economy [social] is people acting and interacting. It is little or nothing else. We tend to think of the economy in terms of resources, machines, businesses, and perhaps jobs. But that is a simplification that is misleading. Those are important, but they are all means to ends. The economy is about using means to attain ends. To put it differently, it is how we act to satisfy our wants, to make us better off. Simply put, the economy [social] is about creating value.
“Our means are limited but our wants are not. We must figure out how to make as much as possible with the little we have. If we choose to pursue one end, then we cannot use the same means to pursue other ends as well. In other words, there is always a trade off. Every choice we make and every action we take means that we forego what we did not choose. Either you take the car for a drive or you stay at home. You cannot do both at the same time. You can use your money to buy one thing, or to buy another. Or you can save your money for another time. But the same money cannot be used both to buy something and be saved too. Your choice of one thing means you did not and cannot choose the other. By choosing one thing over another, by acting, we rank things’ value to us—we economize. The economy is all of us economizing.”
It is exactly at this point that the role of the government becomes much clearer. Governance must be oriented towards identifying and embracing the humans having peace and coherence in mind. When the additional international political economic arena is already in full play in and around the region, the government cannot get away with the excuse that reaching the area is risky and difficult. In the prevailing circumstances, government is the only agent which can and should take the responsibility to bring peace back; Manipur, at this moment, cannot afford a case of Agent Failure. As Robert Hoppe puts in The Governance of Problems: Puzzling, powering, participation, the people of Manipur are in a real very worrisome scenario: “People are problem-processing animals. Not that we are all worrywarts, of course. But people do tend to be concerned about conditions they feel uneasy about. They brood over situations they experience as uncomfortable or troublesome, especially if they see no obvious way out. One might call this the substantive logic of problem processing: experiencing an uncomfortable situation, diagnosing the nature of the problem and figuring out what to do to solve, or at least, alleviate the problem. Most problems have a personal character; they concern people as problem owners, their families, relatives, friends, colleagues, fellow members of sports clubs and the like. How people solve problems usually remains their own business. Why bother about others, as long as satisfactory solutions can be figured out and acted on by yourself and other known people in your own household, or social circles or communities? But some of these apparently small problems may come to be seen as problems of larger scope. If your occasional backache turns out to be a serious threat to your capacity to work and earn a decent income, it helps to have a public or private health insurance system and a well-organized healthcare system.” People need a visible manifestation of governance actions in Manipur for addressing the crisis rather than small actions for suppressing the voices of concerned citizens.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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