By: Amar Yumnam
Imphal, Dec 18:
Aron Nimzovich, a celebrated Chess Master, wrote in his 1930 book My System: A Treatise on Chess: “Luckily only an infinitesimal proportion of all possible chess moves possesses practical signficance; but even this small number gives us a game whose complexity is as disturbing as it is attractive.” This statement comes to mind when the state government of Manipur recently talked of an Alternative Farming System to the Jhuming (slash and burn) and poppy cultivations. We have been very critical of the present government of Manipur as it indulges more in propaganda than in policy formulation; it has been presenting propagandas as if they were policies. But this time the Government has brought in the term System into the announcement. The very mention of this term makes us feel that the Government is serious, must have done the homework andarticulated within the administration the entire approach for bringing poppy cultivation and jhuming under a new intervention.
Out of the sixteen districts in Manipur, the announcement puts ten mountainous districts of Churachandpur, Chandel, Kangpokpi, Kamjong, Noney, Pherjwal, Senapati, Tamenglong, Tengnoupal and Ukhrul under the programme. To begin with – must be to begin with only – 1 Grass cutter, 10 Spades, 2 Shovels, 2 Pick-Axe, 5 Rakes, 5 bundles of Cocopeat, 50 pieces of Plug Tray, 5 Plastic Crates, 1 packet of Coriander, 3 packets of Pea, 1 packet of Bean, 1 packet of Bean (Long), 1 packet of Chia seeds and 1 packet of Wax Gourd have been provided to the concerned population.
Since the term system implies networks and many other accompanying components, it would be proper to try to appreciate the meaning of the term and more so as the cooperation of the general public is necessarily called for. Talcott Parsons wrote in 1951 in his book, The Social System, thus: “The fundamental starting point is the concept of social systems of action. The interaction of individual actors, that is, takes place under such conditions that it is possible to treat such a process of interaction as a system in the scientific sense and subject it to the same order of theoretical analysis which has been successfully applied to other types of systems in other sciences. ……… The frame of reference concerns the “orientation” of one or more actors—in the fundamental individual case biological organisms—to a situation, which includes other actors. The scheme, that is, relative to the units of action and interaction, is a relational scheme. It analyzes the structure and processes of the systems built up by the relations of such units to their situations, including other units. It is not as such concerned with the internal structure of the units except so far as this directly bears on the relational system.
The situation is defined as consisting of objects of orientation, so that the orientation of a given actor is differentiated relative to the different objects and classes of them of which his situation is composed. It is convenient in action terms to classify the object world as composed of the three classes of “social,” “physical,” and “cultural” objects. A social object is an actor, which may in turn be any given other individual actor (alter), the actor who is taken as a point of reference himself (ego), or a collectivity which is treated as a unit for purposes of the analysis of orientation. Physical objects are empirical entities which do not “interact” with or “respond” to ego. They are means and conditions of his action. Cultural objects are symbolic elements of the cultural tradition, ideas or beliefs, expressive symbols or value patterns so far as they are treated as situational objects by ego and are not “internalized” as constitutive elements of the structure of his personality.”Action” is a process in the actor-situation system which has motivational significance to the individual actor, or, in the case of a collectivity, its component individuals.
This means that the orientation of the corresponding action processes has a bearing on the attainment of gratifications or the avoidance of deprivations of the relevant actor, whatever concretely in the light of the relevant personality structures these may be. Only in so far as his reladon to the situation is in this sense motivationally relevant will it be treated in this work as action in a technical sense. It is presumed that the ultimate source of the energy or “effort” factor of action processes is derived from the organism, and correspondingly that in some sense all gratification and deprivation have an organic significance. ……… It is a fundamental property of action thus defined that it does not consist only of adhoc “responses” to particular situational “stimuli” but that the actor develops a system of “expectations” relative to the various objects of the situation. These may be structured only relative to his own need-dispositions and the probabilities of gratification or deprivation contingent on the various alternatives of action which he may undertake. Butin the case of interaction with social objects a further dimension is added.
Part of ego’s expectation, in many cases the most crucial part, consists in the probable reaction of alter to ego’s possible action, a reaction which comes to be anticipated in advance and thus to affect ego’s own choices. On both levels, however, various elements of the situation come to have special “meanings” for ego as “signs” or “symbols” which become relevant to the organization of his expectation system. Especially where there is social interaction, signs and symbols acquire common meanings and serve as media of communication between actors. When symbolic systems which can mediate communication have emerged we may speak of the beginnings of a “culture” which becomes part of the action systems of the relevant actors. It is only with systems of interaction which have become differentiated to a cultural level that we are here concerned. Though the term social system may be used in a more elementary sense, for present purposes this possibility can be ignored and attention confined to systems of interaction of a plurality of individual actors oriented to a situation and where the system includes a commonly understood system of cultural symbols.”
Thus while talking of a system, we need to be inevitably conscious of the relational mechanism and the preference systems. In the present context of the Alternative Farming System, there needs to base the framing of programmes on (a)the existing network structure, both internal and external; and (b)prevailing preference structure.
The biggest challenge to the new attempt would be the spatial reality that the concerned population have evolved over the years a system for their livelihood and enhancement of life, and this has naturally created a kind of path dependence to sustain their livelihood. Another big challenge would be to make the population accept a new allegiance of a market network, which would be different from what they have been used to so far.
The disturbing scenariois that Manipur cannot afford to fail in the latest endeavour. While the announcement, as it is today, does not possess the ingredients of a Systems Approach, the onus is now on the government to put in place in right earnest the necessary ingredients. First, it is needed that the new farming would have all the inputs, including water, available to the farmers. Second, there has to be a mechanism of insurance such that, in the case of crop failure, the farmers would not require to fall back on their earlier system. Third, the new relationship with the market should be structurally present.
Above all, the local population are to be made sure of the commitment of the government to a superior well-being. This calls for a multi-sectoral approach. Two interventions are of a priority here. First, global experience tells us that the people in such spatial areas generally experience a wide and deep incidence of malnutrition. The government should immediately, along with the ensuring of availability of inputs, conduct a survey of the nutritional status of the population. Second, an educational initiative to create a foundation for science talent among children should be put in place.
Hoping that the government would implement a policy this time instead of the usual indulgence in propaganda.