POOR CM, PAUPERISED PUBLIC

This article was published by the Imphal Free Press ( http://ifp.co.in) on 12 Jan 2012 at http://ifp.co.in/imphal-free-press-full-story.php?newsid=3930&catid=5


The power situation in Manipur, in particular Imphal city, has worsened in the past few months. Even those areas once given powers from the transformers meant for VIPs, and therefore the flocking focus of many small enterprises such as motor workshops, welders etc, there are now under punishing load shedding schedules, threatening the total collapse of many of these small businesses. Only those businesses which can afford to run generators through the day without suffering too heavy losses, are managing to keep some work flow intact. Apparently there has been a further segregation between VIPs and VVIP for some elite enclaves still get uninterrupted power through the day. In other words, the government ensures VVIP homes do not miss their favourite television series but is little bothered about small enterprises shutting down. Such is the nature of the skewing of governmental priorities in today’s Manipur. But then this is also the state, officially with the poorest chief minister in the country. In a list of chief ministers and their declared wealth today in many national dailies, the chief minister of Manipur was shown as amongst the poorest, with declared assets worth only Rs. 6.09 lakhs. If this truly is the picture, the Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi would not just be among the poorest chief ministers in India, but also probably poorer than most employees of his government, including grade two and three ones, most of whom would be valued more in terms just their mandatory provident fund deposits and other immovable assets.

Something is terribly wrong in Manipur and it is showing loudly everywhere. In the past few decades, the place’s priorities have totally altered. From what was a close knitted society, with shared characteristics and concerns, it is now fragmented into many different segments. And this division is not only on ethnic lines, but increasingly on class hierarchy, with the ruling clique successfully garnering the best of what the so called democratic system can offer. Hence, as we have pointed out, small enterprises are threatened to be thrown out of business, or at have been hopelessly stunted because of acute shortage of electric power, and VVIP homes are assured they can without interruption watch their favourite TV serials or watch movies on their home theatres. It is the same manifestation of the diseased outlook which makes the government boast of having accomplished the mission of erecting grand public buildings in Imphal city, such as the Manipur Film Development Corporation and the City Convention Centre, often after agonising evictions of impoverished local populations, while vital public utilities such as safe drinking water, domestic electric supply, city roads are all allowed to crumble unchecked. Even the section of the road at the two bases of the relatively recent BT Road flyover, laid not with bitumen but with reinforced concrete, are now beginning to show signs of atrophy. The Paona Bazar and Thangal Bazar streets in heart of the city are also now in severe states of damage. Come to think of it, is there any section of the capital city which can be considered a show piece to be proud of?

While corruption is a universal phenomenon in India, what is shameful in the case of Manipur is, it has come to have a public acceptance. The description of the government as well as its employees as public servants have now come to be totally forgotten, and instead, the thievery of this class has come to be seen with respect and awe. Their ill gotten wealth too are now seed as well deserved perks of office. In a role reversal of the metaphor, the public servants are now the masters of a public systematically degraded and impoverished to serfdom. The new masters, at least most of them, though officially earn small, now can afford several expensive properties in several metropolises of the country, send their children for studies abroad at exorbitant costs. The pauperised masses watch with awe the spending powers of these opulent new masters, and instead of questioning how this has come about, only wish and pray their children would one day climb the social ladder to join this cabal of the most selfish, shameless and greedy. This is how corruption today has become an immovable monolith, firmly rooted in the ground and tentacles spread to embrace all who may one day become an opponent of the corrupt system. If not checked, it could also be the ultimate death knell of a society which has been rendered unable to introspect and correct itself for the ultimate greater common good.

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