WHY PRICE TAGS ON GOVERNMENT JOBS: STATE SO UNFRIENDLY TO LIVELIHOOD EFFORTS IN MANIPUR

This article by Amar Yumnam was originally published by E-pao.net on 5 May 2015. The writer is a professor at Department of Economics, Manipur University.

The whole world knows that there is a price tag for every government job in Manipur. It is also known that the government is practically the only employer of people looking for jobs in the formal sector. With the very slow expansion or rather stagnancy for employment opportunities in the informal sector, the job in government is the only hope and aspiration of the people – youths, and parents of the youths.

Simultaneously it is also the envy of all those youths and parents of youths who do not have any space in the quantum of employment in the government sector. This has been the reality– governance trajectory and social dynamics - of Manipur for not years, but decades with the quantum reflected in price tags rising without limits.

Globally, the mid-1980s completed the trend of realization of government failures instead of the conventional thinking that it is only the market that fails. The government is neutral and objective whereas the market is driven by the selfish motives of the individuals – this was the religious belief of development workers. The global research on development, poverty removal and social justice established by mid-1980s and beyond doubt at that that Milton Friedman has been right all along. Friedman had been saying all along that government is never objective and consists of self-aggrandizing individuals.

While mistakes in a market would not be cumulative, mistakes committed by the government would tend to get cumulative because the state defends the government; in fact, the government performs all its activities in the name of the state only. This protection allows the government to keep on committing anti-people and anti-nation activities and all in the name of the state.

This would continue without correction and the individuals performing the duties of the government would continue to flourish without any correction mechanism coming forth; while in the market any mistake would emit signals as reflected in the price, there is no such thing in the case of the members of the club performing the government functions. Manipur is an exemplary example of government failures and the accumulation of the cost of those failures.

There is a locational advantage in this phenomenon; the peripheral location allows that the club members of the government can continue with their business unconcerned by the rest of the world and the political voice of the people as well too weak to be cared for. Now the question is: how do the club members sustain this phenomenon for decades?

While the whole world are witnessing drastic changes in the transformation of the character and quality of government - India is not an exception to this -, why is it that the club members of the government are able to sustain their activities with the same characteristic components in the case of Manipur? This is where we need to have a deep look into the character of functioning of the government in Manipur.

The governance in Manipur has all along worked only on the principle to ensure that the only means to assured livelihood and growth remains only through joining a job in government by hook or by crook in the real sense. This has been worked through two functionalities. First, the government has so assiduously worked over the decades to see to it that the means to livelihood do not get expanded in the non-governmental sector by imposing prohibitive political costs.

Second, the government has all along behaved almost like a controlling authority than as an effective regulator. Regulation is such a foreign word to the governance mechanism in Manipur. Say control, all the members of the club (read government) would jump out as competent and committed athletes.

Here it would be interesting to quote what Claude Levi-Strauss writes in the very first paragraph of his book Myths and Meaning: : “Although I am going to talk about what I have written, my books and papers and so on, unfortunately I forget what I have written practically as soon as it is finished. There is probably going to be some trouble about that.

But nevertheless I think there is also something significant about it, in that I don’t have the feeling that I write my books. I have the feeling that my books get written through me and that once they have got across me I feel empty and nothing is left.” While Levi-Strauss writes for a very positive outlook to the whole issue of his expression of ideas to the world, paraphrasing him in connection with behaviour of the club members of the government in Manipur is interesting.

It is as if they see all their actions as stand- alone actions with no links with the past and no concerns for the future; the present is all that matters. But the present is defined only by what serves self-aggrandisement; rent, rent, and rent, and production and productivity are irrelevant. This absence of sense of regulation, enhancement of livelihood opportunities, and encouragement of production orientation of the government of Manipur has a latest manifestation in how the pre-office hour market is controlled and suppressed in Imphal.

Day in and day out, we would find both the government and the society it serves shouting their respect to our women and womanhood in Manipur. But the character of controlling approach rather than regulatory approach has always got the better of the governance thinking as it serves the purpose of sustenance on non-expansion of livelihood opportunities outside the purview of government and rent-control exercises of the club-members. There is a temporary market-shed in the Bir Tikendrajit Road. Everybody knows this place is a symbol of dirt, mud and what not.

Given the fact that, the activities undertaken in this market shed are the only ones to honourably sustain a family for all the participants. It may be that the government wants to work towards making the participants subservient to government forever. Second, for the last few weeks, we have been observing the strength of the provincial law and order maintenance force in full play in absolutely stopping the women of Manipur selling their little products on the roadside in the wee hours of the morning.

Now all these women are only those putting in all their efforts to make a living for their family and to maintain their children. Remember, we are yet to experience a policy intervention of the government to enhance livelihood opportunities either in the valley or in the mountains.

Further, the tax-payers do not contribute their share to have the police personnel employed to curb the activities of the people endeavouring hard to earn a livelihood. Well, the time is now for the government to recover from nonsense and evolve towards enhancing livelihood opportunities of the people. It is not control but regulation. Please see what is happening around the world in both thinking and policy. Please do not force the people to bear the cost of governance incompetence forever.

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