Saxena also notes that the Indian state’s capacity to deliver public services have declined considerably as a result of the “rising indiscipline and a growing belief widely shared among the political and bureaucratic elite that state is an arena where public office is to be used for private ends” (2005, 1). The Indian civil service today is deeply engaged in partisan politics to the extent that the virtues of integrity, neutrality, morale are declining, while in the political domain accountability has shifted from the people who are the electorates to vested interests behind the respective MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) such as the contractors, corrupt bureaucrats etc. This unfortunately however has given rise to a situation of weak governance particularly manifested in the poor capability of the state to deliver public services. Consequently the public service delivery system in India according to Saxena is:
mired in a system where the incentives for effective service delivery are weak, and political patronage is a way of life. Highly trained doctors seldom wish to serve in remote rural areas. Since those who do serve are rarely monitored, the penalties for not being at work are low. Even when present, they treat poor people badly (2005, 2).
State capability to deliver public services in India is thus challenged most importantly by problems of weak administrative machinery that has failed to institutionalize an effective accountable transparent public service delivery system. The Indian state has also failed to institutionalize an inclusive model encouraging institutional or organizational capability of the Indian states. Rather, what has happened is that while some states have been able to improve state capability, some have not. This is true in the case of Manipur too.
Weak capability of the state in Manipur
The administrative capability of state institutions in Manipur is characterized as lacking effective planning and co-ordination between line departments, low utilization of funds, bribery, absence of monitoring and grievance redressal systems, lack of personnel, distortion in financial management, absence of social audit, corruption and violation of official guidelines, political interference, inability to complete projects on time, general apathy, poor citizens participation, absence of citizen charters etc., (The White Paper on Manipur State Finance 2002, TISS 2012). Moreover numerous social groups, and organizations continue to challenge the capability of the state to maintain law and order, create an environment conducive to economic growth and development, and ensure citizens equitable access to basic services (The White Paper on Manipur State Finance 2002, TISS 2012). Manipur has the largest number of insurgent groups currently engaged in active combat, as well as those with whom ceasefire agreements have been signed (Institute of Conflict Management 2015).1 However while the prolonged violence and unsustainable peace has created uncertainty in the political, economic, and social environment, it is the poor capability of the state that has influenced governance most profoundly.
The weak administrative capability has affected state ability to institutionalize an effective planning and coordination mechanism for efficient public service delivery. For instance the CMOs of the hill district of Ukhrul and valley district of Bishnupur were “unaware of project components and plans of the implementing agency to finish work within the targeted date” (Government of Manipur 2011) with regard to the construction of the 50 bedded hospitals.2 Even the Superintendent of Directorate Health in the hill district of Churachandpur, was unaware of the project components and progress of the construction of a 100-bedded hospital. The Deputy Commissioner, Ukhrul and other concerned authorities were also unaware of the construction of the District Sports Complex (Government of Manipur 2011). The lack of citizen’s participation and monitoring mechanisms has also affected the implementation of PDS. In Tamenglong 100% of the respondents were unaware of the purpose of village vigilance committee while in Bishnupur it was at 99% (TISS 2012, 57).
State institutions in Manipur suffer from repeated failure to implement programmes and policies (The White Paper on Manipur State Finance 2002, TISS 2012). Commenting on the prevailing state of public services, the TISS report notes that:
§ PDS (Public Distribution System) is in shambles as complaints about political interference in the award of Fair Price Shops and siphoning of food grains are routine,
§ ICDS and MDM (Integrated Child Development Scheme, Mid Day meal) suffer from wilful neglect, corruption, and violation of official guidelines about monitoring and supervision,
§ NRDWP, TSC, NRHM, PMGSY (National Rural Drinking Water Program, Total Sanitation Campaign, National Rural Health Mission, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana) suffer from low utilization of funds and bureaucratic delays in implementation (2012, x-xi).
This declining administrative capability has most deeply affected the ability of the institutions of government to ensure citizens access to public services. In Imphal the capital according to the City Development Plan of the 26% of population living below the poverty line: 23% did not have access to safe drinking water and were largely dependent upon stand-posts water, 3% rely on tank supply water, 59% do not have access to proper toilets, and 66% live in kuchha houses. Field survey in the Imphal urban area also reveal that 93% of the respondent households did not receive electricity regularly, while 78% complained of irregular water services (Yambem 2013b). The lack of supervision and monitoring has contributed to increasing deterioration of public schools. In Bishnupur, primary schools were functioning without Head Masters, while teacher absenteeism is as high as 95% in Tausem, 70% in Tamenglong, 20% in Bishnupur and 58% in Moirang (TISS 2012). Consequently, public school enrolment in Manipur has declined considerably. In fact Manipur with 71.7% students has the highest private school enrolment in the country (ASER-Rural 2016). The nature and poor quality of public services whether roads, or the issues of underdeveloped infrastructure, frequent transfers and non-availability of teachers or health workers doctors in public schools, heath centers and the overall lack of accessibility to public services have also been widely reported by the local media. Recently the local Sangai English daily highlighted the absolute lack of basic services in Khengjoy in the Chandel subdivision. The news report item wrote:
Even though the State Government often makes tall claims of successfully addressing grievances of the people through introduction of certain programmes aimed at reaching out to the hills and far flung areas of the State like “Hill Leaders Day”, “Meeyamgi Numit” and “Go to Village” etc, many villagers residing along Khengjoy subdivision of Chandel district still remain deprived of even (he most basic amenities.( ( The people living in villages such as Toitung, Phoilin, Gelmol, New Somtal, Old Somtal, Kovang are yet to see any of the developmental progress of the State Government.( (
The standard of life in many of these villages is still very primitive as there are no proper roads, health care system, educational institutions and other basic amenities. The condition of the approach roads to these villages are so pathetic that no vehicles, except Shak-timan trucks and Kenbo (a kind of moped imported from Myanmar) can access these villages. ( ( While travelling by foot, one has to walk on the muddy road (the mud sometimes almost reaching the knees) to reach the villages.( (
(To be contd....)
Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents.