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Manipur Under Eye-conomics Scanner!

Writing this article in lighter vein, the base of this therefore is not on any scientific research work, nor of any extension of economic theories, nor of any economic survey; but simply on pure observation which I called EYE-CONOMICS!

The Traffic Signal System [TSS] – a second debut

If installation of the TSS as of now is any indication, later than sooner the flicking of the three traffic lights at selected main traffic islands will start functioning. But how good or functional would it be like once it is inaugurated? Some nagging questions that need attention may be as below:

Are the Zebra Lines in place? The placements or sitings of the ZL are either too close to main hubs of the junctions, and the pedestrian crossings are not cleared of the pedestrian-passages through the parapets that divide the road. These obstacles need to be removed for allowing smooth flow of pedestrians.

With the mindset of FAST COMES, FIRST SERVED norm amongst the driving community particularly the two wheeler-born riders, are the Traffic Police outriders in place for chasing the traffic rules offenders? And what are the powers of the police for such crimes? In the West particularly in the US and Europe, pedestrians are treated with dignity and respect as they are given priority. In a rare instance amongst the Asian countries, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia has one particular stretch of main road in which pedestrians have the privilege of stopping traffic by switching on at the given spot, and as they crossed on the other side, another switch puts it off to allow traffic again. Can this be tried out in our road particularly at Old Treasury spot along the Governor’s road?

Checking of unauthorized U-Turn users? Such unchecked traffic offenders only bedeviled the system. This can be greatly minimized if the authorities opened up more openings before the main hubs of the traffic. This applies along the Airport road, PWD stretch of Kangla Park, Secretariat and IMR stretch of road, High court stretch, and North AOC-DMC stretch etc.

Pedestrian flyovers at some selected places such as before Kangla, Keishampat, Hump-Bridge area, Khuyathong and North AOC deserve consideration.

NB. Recent changes in Parking areas and change direction of one-way traffic had helped eased the congestion greatly.

Changing role of the Security Forces as People’s Army

It is a welcome sight to see patterns of changing behavior, and the role-play of the Security Forces from the old concept of behaving like an Occupation Army! Daily papers these days are full of news of welfare schemes being inaugurated by units under different formations-HQs. Nearly two decades ago, the Army Development Group (ADG) took care of the development works under the control of the Army which was doing excellent job though there was some misunderstanding between the local authorities and the ADG; and it was recalled, and it has since been given a second birth in the form as we see today, and it is becoming a practical and successful tool in establishing better rapport and understanding between the people and the Security Forces in this militant-prone areas. Fairness demands that some kind of credit and recognition is due to Brig Rajendra Singh (now Lt Gen) for having successfully established the kind of rapport required and needed to tackle this complex socio-political problem. His exemplary wooing and successes in getting the ‘˜Imas’ of the all powerful ‘˜Meira-paibis’ in talking and friendly terms that never existed before was the beginning of a new phase of the role of the deployed SF units in the area.

The Transporters and Drivers [heavy vehicles] – the unsung heroes

Who can forget their undying services rendered by Transporters and Drivers who kept alive the supply lines carrying essential goods and passengers etc through thick and thin of the highways during the bandhs and economic blockades with a resilient spirit serving the people who perhaps may not be aware of the same?

Alongside them are those under-study drivers generally known as handy-men whose unforgettable role in being a go-between the tax-collectors who are strung all along the highways? It does not matter to them whether they are authorized or unauthorized, or whether they are police or militants. Their job is to palm off and please the recipients and to let go their charge on their onward journey to fulfill their task of bringing back goods for home consumption.

We also owe a big thank you to the motor owners for their unstinted willingness to stick out their necks in order to keep the sacred trust to keep the line of supply flowing so that people enjoy the fruit of life without any discrimination! And therefore the decision of the Transporters and Drivers Council of Manipur (TDCM) and the United Committee of Manipur [UCM] to patronize NH 53 rather than NH 39 was a far sighted and practicable decision having known and tolerated the unbearable difficulties without being able to retaliate that had already been gone through from the people of the areas and of that State Government whose horizon is of limited view!

The Naga onslaught on the highways!

The machination of the economic blockade for weeks together under the aegis of the UNC (United Naga Council) and ANSAM (All Naga Students Assn, Manipur) deserves some comments. For all attempts to teach their people to hate others, have they paid off and enabled them to achieve their goals? Nelson Mandela observed: ‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love come more naturally to the human hearts than its opposites.’

Their jingoism based on a wrong premise that ‘˜the Nagas’ birth right alone should override or supersede that of others is being pursued to the extent of the fact that it is in sharp contrast to their new found faith in Christianity which teaches all that one should love his neighbor as himself. In the bargain they started teaching to hate others if others stand in the way to their objective which is both inhuman and unchristian. And some one has remarked that whatever the UNC has been fighting for did not profit them nor advance their objective but has been successful in extending the spirit of hate. Let us have a brief survey on their ‘Hate campaign….’

Firstly, Their ‘Hate Kukis and kill them’ campaign between 1992 – 96 succeeded in killing more than a thousand heads consisting mainly of women and children, and old people, as a result of their QUIT NOTICES for which the ANSAM in the guise of NLG (Naga Lim Guards) making free use of ANSAM letter heads. They had even gone to the excess of killing people within the Church and on Sundays! The barbarous killings had never evoked their sense of being human nor even of a sense of shedding crocodile’s tears, leave alone being Christians.

Therefore, calling UNC meaning UNChristian is fully vindicated! Some of the perpetrators have gone to their graves untimely, and some are still awaiting their turn with biting conscience if they have any!

Secondly, their attempt to boycott Education system of Manipur and encouraging their school going children to go over to Nagaland for their studies in the mid-year had not given any bounties in this score either. Generally, the results of various educational tests except for Don Bosco, Maram have not recorded much of good records!

Thirdly, they attempted a peculiar non-co-operation movement by not giving taxes to the Government of Manipur but to Nagaland had not succeeded as the same is not tenable in the governmental transactions. This is nothing short of being chauvinistic!

Fourthly, they also attempted to pre-empt the ownership of State of Manipur, by putting up claims in the sign boards and placards claiming that some parts of Manipur such as Ukhrul, Chandel, Senapati and Tamenglong as that of Nagalim. This campaign reached its crescendo during the visit of Senapati by the Honorable Chief Minister on an occasion when a hidden banner suddenly popped up with the writings ‘Welcome to Nagalim’ etc. Have their attempts brought them any tangible results other than the manifestation of their narrow objective, and of being a nuisance!

Fifthly, their latest political-hate campaign in boycotting the Autonomous Hill District Election has ended disastrously for their healthy leadership. The saying that ‘˜Only leadership has bad people, and generally most people are good’ has been proved more than once in their campaign trail. Knowing that no ACT can be perfect even Constitution of a country, and therefore there are endless room for amendments after amendments. The same applies to the Act relating to the Autonomous Hill Districts Act.

Sixthly, their frequent indulgence in resorting to the red-hot-economic-blockades as tools to bring the Government and the people of Manipur into submission to their outrageous demands have back-fired. Who suffers? We all suffer together. But who will ultimately bear the brunt of the sufferings?

As we come to enjoy road-side economy, such kind of uncalled for blockade hit hard on their own people. What happened to the thriving business along the road (NH 39) because of fairly heavy vehicular traffic of not less than 400 vehicles one way bringing means of earning for their own and people at large? With the diminishing traffic, they deny this respectable means; and who loses the battle? In contrast to this, the areas which are not affected by such a disastrous policy, there is every visible that convey that the economy and growth in all respect spells ‘robust’. The Finance Minister had presented a surplus revenue budget for the past year and looked forward to a robust one for the current year! And the status of the valley and other districts unaffected by the blockade can be summed up with a few instances as below:-

Exhibit 1: Despite blockades and insufficient supplies of POL from the regular oil pumps, the density of vehicles on roads as thick as ever testify to the fact that though things may cost more yet there still is sufficient supply to keep men running to and fro.

Exhibit 2: The number of vehicles plying in the city and towns of valley and other outlying non-affected districts remained functional though there may be increase in the bus fares. You can spot brand new cars, and other types of light vehicles aplenty thronging now the streets of Imphal and nearby towns are evidence of prosperity.

Exhibit 3: Construction works of both Government and private continued unabated and sign of progress can be seen all over. Economy of the State other than the affected hill districts is evidently on sound and firm footing. Of course, it could have been faster and progressive but for the blockade!

Exhibit 4 : The see-saw changes in the status of NH 39 and NH 53 is not without economic boons in that what had been built up along the NH 39 has been denuded whereas along the NH 53 there has been some growth along the highway giving hope to people of the area for a resurging local economy! It may sound altruism, and why not!

Seventhly, they tried to kowtow lawfully elected MLAs to resign from their seats on the ground that they had been supported by the UNC and that they should obey their diktat. The legislators obeyed pronto without realizing that they were voted by the people exercising their own power of choice; but with ‘˜a little bit of luck’ their resignation papers contained reasons for their action! Whether they did this knowingly or unknowingly that the Rules don’t permit them to make their resignations unacceptable is for all to surmise! Anyway the Speaker has done well in not accepting the same which must have come as a boon to them and their families!

N.B. Perhaps they are running out of options. Sometimes losing brings peace as in the cases cited above in the same way ‘Kissinger brought peace to Vietnam, the same way Napoleon brought peace to Europe by losing.’ It is not a bad option after all! I would like to borrow the editorial heading only of The Sangai Express: SONS OF THE SOIL SOILING THE SOIL applies appropriately in the context of the foregoing paras!

The land that is Manipur

You may be small amongst your colleagues in terms of population and size, but you are worth the gold of your weight; and a compelling one too in more than one ways. Look up the horizon and count your blessings; and performances in all spheres of human activities of a thriving state!

A land where no people live in shanties or slums: Though we have the poor and less fortunate beings, all manage to live under the roof of their respective homes however humble they may be. Corollary to this, we have no beggars. But I do not know what will happen when we are linked up with railways! To import such unfortunate beings from outside will be a sad commentary on Indianisation.

Economically backward? The answer may both be ‘˜Yes’ and ‘˜No’. In terms of high rise infrastructures, industries, factories, and other various centers of show pieces and of learning may not match up with some of the so-called advanced States. Whatever its short-comings are, it still shines with the glows of its own peculiarities. Economists and statisticians may look for the statistics and sinews of the branches of the tree economy, but the EYE-conomics look at the leafy boughs and their green leaves. Look around and notice the kind of shelters, houses, buildings are built, or being built. Go to the lanes and bye-lanes of the Imphal city, and other neighboring hill towns; you will notice the strength of their economy. In other big cities, the contrasts between the rich and the poor are so huge, and the only link that can be established is that of a relationship between master and servant!

Look around and see for yourself whether you see beggars, and children in rags collecting various kinds of things from the dirts and garbage-heaps!

Look around again and discover for yourself those squatters alongside the road with their scanty merchandise wherever they can find a place under the sun to eke out means for a living. This indeed is manifestation of a resilient and indomitable spirit for a living with self respect and prestige.

Look around again and see how main roads and bye lanes are filling up the same with moving bikes, scooters, cars and other four wheel vehicles of out all sizes. During the past few decades, the number of cycles which was the yardstick of the status of families has now been replaced by the number of cars, and that too cars of the latest model and design! The density of cars moving along the roads only bespeaks of changes and health of the society and the economy we live in!

From the look of it, it appears that what Former US Ambassador to India Prof J.K Galbraith, who by profession, an economist had once said seems to have given a portray of Manipur in his book ‘˜The Affluent Society’ : ‘In a community where public services have failed to keep abreast of private consumption things are different. Here, in an atmosphere of private goods have full sway.’ For example, there used to be the public bus system called MSRTC reaching all district HQs and inter-State services has become defunct and in its place ‘˜private goods’ or services have sprung up in all the districts. In the Imphal city itself, commuters have many alternatives to reach their various destinations provided by private entrepreneurs.

There used to be IMC but having become more of a liability then being potential, the Government has zeroed on it and took over the care of the city by taking the right decision by keeping the IMC in animated suspension. In order to keep the City of Imphal clean, healthy and beautiful, the Government kicked started a Zero-Garbage campaign by the Chief Minister himself since Aug 2010. The campaign is gaining momentum by the day, and hope this will not only be a one-time campaign but a perennial one. The Government should take to heart to make it a living campaign rather than seasonal. Those ‘Green’ societies who are engaged in the field must be encouraged by providing funds for enabling them to provide themselves with the kind of vehicles and other equipments for the same including appropriate welfare for taking care of their personal health and welfare to give incentive to this important role of public hygiene and sanitation.

The Police and the Magistracy should also step up their activities to keep the momentum as an on-going work making use of their powers as provided in the Police Act. Source of regular and most extensive dirts are from the shop keepers themselves whose habit must be curtailed to become part of the green workers whether the IMC comes back or not by making payment for the services so provided.

KANGLA-WOOD that is Imphal!

We have reasons to be proud of our theatrical and dramatic talents whether in the form of Shumang Leela, Drama and theatre and duly augmented by the newly acquired audio-visual and digital technology people are being entertained through the DDK, AIR, ISTV channels etc.

The quality and sense of cinematography has gone much ahead that we forgot our sense of being a backward State in the light of having been noticed internationally and begging internationally acclaimed awards ‘”both for the products and the individual artists. In this feat, the music and the voices of playback singers, we do not need much of the Bollywood products.

In fact, we have more of the kind of Latas and Rafis, or Naushads, OP Nayyars, C Ramchandrans etc than Bollywood itself. If Bombay can become Bollywood because of its celluloid and musical talents, taking all such works of entertainment world that ate being produced, the Imphal city can appropriately be renamed the KANGLA WOOD of the East!

Look at the kind of talents in the field of Sport where our sport-persons are riding high and doing us proud and our heads high with their world-class laurels and the contribution of the State in this arena for India, indeed, has been very outstanding without naming anyone as it would be a long list.

Look at her contributions towards being ‘bahadurs’ who had taken part in the defense of the country. We have unforgettable Kargil heroes with bravery awards irrespective of their tribes/castes and the latest being that of the recipient of Ashok Chakra, the highest bravery award in peace time.

*The article is written by P Gangte.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

(Picture Courtesy: Esben Agersnap)

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