EDITORIAL: Look East Head West? Rehashed Script

The economy of the country is supposed to be galloping at a healthy 8 pc growth and India is among the countries, besides Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa, projected as the next big thing to happen in the world. An emerging star, we may say and this has come about primarily after the country opened up her economy from the early part of the 90s and the results of the new economy can be seen in the swanky shopping malls, the multiplexes, the new emerging culture of consumption not to talk about the new spending power of the young and ambitious etc.

Gradually buying a car no longer meant having to choose between a Premier Padmini or an Ambassador and today the customer is spoilt for choice. A soft drink today no longer means limiting our choice between the products from Parle and Pure drinks or between a Thums Up and a Frooti. The technology revolution in the IT sector meant that a desk top has become a must have in the homes of all the middle class Indians and brand names no longer meant Only Vimal or Raymond but has come to be identified with HP, Nissan, Toyota, Sony, Microsoft or Windows and even the way music is listened to has changed and the audio cassette is today passé’ and in its place there is the compact disc, which is not only cheaper but also delivers better audio quality.

A two lane National Highway is no longer the latest means of making inter-State journey more comfortable and more efficient for we have now in its place a four way lane highway and even a six way lane. There has been a trickledown effect of the new found sense of liberation brought about by the liberalized economy in Manipur too and to the youngsters or teens of today, a landline is something archaic and Alexander Graham Bell is not about the connecting cable wires but more about Airtel, Aircel, Reliance, Vodafone etc. An Ambassador car is something which a young child of 15 or 16 will be pressed hard to recognize in a jiffy for the cars that he or she understands come from the staples of Maruti, Hyundai, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Tata etc. The bag slung over the shoulder of the young adult today does not carry files or books but a lap top. This is Manipur as shaped and influenced by the effect of the liberalized economy.

However as Sociologists will say, the changes in the materialistic appearance or culture move much faster than the immaterial culture and along with the latest in digital cameras, iphones, desk tops, designer apparels, sophisticated cars and two wheelers, people here still have to cope with the increasing bout of load shedding. People here still have to grit their teeth in quiet frustration and anger while negotiating their newly bought car over the roads which offer more bounce and jerks than a furrow in the paddy field. In as much as the basic needs of the people continue to be caught in a time warp, the mentality of the political honchos in New Delhi and their men correspondingly refuse to move along with the changing time, willfully or out of sheer ignorance.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia is definitely one of the blue eyed boys of the Prime Minister.  Ahluwalia was Dr Manmohan’s Man Friday as the deputy chairman of the Union Planning Commission during the time of the PV Narashimha Rao Government when Dr Singh was the Finance Minister. Now he is back in his old job, after Dr Singh became the Prime Minister of the country. There surely must be a streak of excellence in his ability for the Prime Minister to trust him so much, especially during the critical period when India started taking her first step from a socialist country to a free market economy. However as is the wont with the Delhiwallahs, the excellence of Mr. Ahluwalia seems to abandon him, the moment he trains his eyes on the North East region.

It sounded perfectly okay and even good when he said that he has been briefed by the Chief Ministers of the North East States that what the region needs is infrastructural development. Based on the inputs that he had received from the political leaders of the region, he surmised that connectivity is another important point that needed to be looked into on a priority basis. No one will deny that these are what the North East States need, but it was obvious that like his political bosses, Mr. Ahluwalia too had failed to shed the myopia  earned through the more than 60 years of independence of the country.

The need for development was touched upon in the context of the Look East policy of the Government of India and it was pronounced during the Regional Consultative meeting on the Approach Paper on the 12th Five Year Plan held recently at Guwahati. It was also the right platform to come up with such announcements, but the paternalistic tone was unmistakable when viewed against the backdrop of the emerging new India and the needs of the North East. In short, what glaringly stood out like a sore thumb was the point that even after 60 years of independence, there is still the need to talk about better connectivity.

This is a phrase that has been talked about, rehashed, re-scripted and rewritten during the last 60 years so much so that today it stands dangerously close to the law of diminishing returns. It sounded more like an election propaganda speech than a policy matter of the Government and this is what is not needed at all. Better connectivity in this age when the term global village has become more and more popular is somewhat an anachronism and surely there must be some people responsible for better connectivity to still remain one of the pressing needs in the North East States in this period when the world has shrunk and is shrinking by the minute.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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