CHARACTER OF A SHANTY TOWN: IMPHAL AND IMPHALITES

This article was published by the Sangai Express ( http://thesangaiexpress.com) on 20 Mar 2012 at  http://thesangaiexpress.com/sangai-express-news.php?newsid=13972  

It would be interesting if an extensive research on the character of Imphal city is carried out, for in many ways the very term, city, connotes not only the size, population, and infrastructure available but also sharply reflects the character, the mindset, the culture, the ethos and values of not only the Government but also its inhabitants. Imphal may not come under the category of a slum, but down the years it has become more and more clear that it fits in quite well with the description of a shanty town and this says something very, very significant for it is the capital of Manipur, one of the older kingdoms in South East Asia, with a recorded history of 2000 years. But it ends here for even as the world has moved into the 21st Century, where windows are no longer windows and where the apple is no longer just a fruit, Imphal continues to be caught in a mindset which has already been dated a long, long time back. In an age when the coal driven train evokes a sense of nostalgia, charcoal is still used as one of the major sources of energy to cook food, and we are talking about Imphal, not the interiors of the State. In an age when people are talking about harvesting wind and solar energy and have already stepped into nuclear power supply, Imphal continues to cope with 3 hours of power supply in a day of 24 hours. In an age when tapping human resources has become the catchword for progress and development, the failure to make school text books prescribed by Government agencies continue to be a bone of contention at the beginning of every academic year and this of course extends to the whole State, much beyond the boundary of Imphal. In an age when water has come to mean something more than just for consumption and has extended to the realm of sports and adventure and entertainment as exemplified by the term water sports, people in Imphal continue to buy water by the buckets and for those fortunate enough to have the space and the resources to build tanks, water tankers are the main suppliers of potable water. In an age when urban planning has come to mean an area of specialisation, untrained and unprofessional personnel are being deployed to man the flow of traffic in Imphal.

Something, somewhere is terribly wrong. The dusty road that turns slushy as and when the sky opens, the unhygienic drains, the piling garbage and dirty surroundings stand in stark contrast with some of the so called modern infrastructure that have come up recently such as the new Assembly complex, the new Secretariat, the City Convention Centre, the High Court complex, the Inter State Bus Terminus etc. This contradiction says something very significant about the character of the people who inhabit this place as well as about the system that passes of as governance. Adhocism is writ large over the new traffic system that has been adopted, taken up in all good faith no doubt, but this is not what is called urban planning. This comes nowhere near to the understanding of managing traffic movement or ensuring some order in the way in which vehicles should move and where they should park. The Imphal Sewerage Project which has stretched on for years is a perfect display of Government apathy and unprofessionalism and the silence of the people over the rot that is fed to them in the name of development projects being taken up is a clear indication of a people who are too self centred to worry or even give a thought to the daily battering their dignity receives. A characterless city, this is what Imphal is all about today. Its roads and streets are nothing but some sort of a platform for the powerful and the well connected people to throw their weight around. All the so called development works taken up in the capital city have been driven by the contract/supply syndrome. A people who think nothing of imposing a bandh or two at the drop of the hat maintaining a stoic silence over the 3 hours of power supply they receive daily is reflective of a people who have no character. Imphal, more particularly the Imphalites are a species apart, not for their geniuses, but for their selfish take on any matter. Let the city rot, it does not matter as long as we can have finest crockery at home, seems to be the message that is being rung out, but in the ultimate analysis, the rot will surely invade and pollute their finest crockery one day and no this is not predicting doomsday but taking a real, hard look at oneself.

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