Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ailing Manipur

My Manipur has many ills...and I despair at its plight. You may say, every place has its own share of ills, but I think Manipur has far more than is ever high-lighted to the world.

For one, it is a strife torn state. Everyone knows that the denizens of the state are the ones who suffer silently amid the innumerable strikes, bandhs, curfews, economic blockades and bomb blasts. There are those nameless women known only as "Meira Paibi" who try to bring some semblance of order to the chaotic state of affairs and then there are better known activists like Sharmila...Amid the hullabaloo over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, there are your usual share of thefts, robberies, kidnappings, and natural disasters. Recently, the imagination of the people of Manipur seem to be captured by Muivah's impending visit to his hometown of Ukhrul. So many protests for and against his visit and so much public property destroyed. And to what end? No satisfactory or simple answers there.

And then there are those "relatively mundane" concerns like the power problem that ails the state. Even in the capital of the state, frequent power cuts are the norm and there is a scheduled load-shedding every alternate day. Many have analysed why the state suffers thus, but still there is no viable solution. Life goes on in the meantime with the help of generators, inverters, rechargeable LED lamps, candles and the traditional "podon" and "thaomei" fuelled by kerosene. Some people have even adopted the practice of having dinner before sunset so that they can sleep through the power-less nights. Such is the power of adaptability and flexibility of the average Manipuri. Solar power has been harnessed to a minor degree but not to a sustainable level. No one is bothered about demanding something like clean fuel from the government or asking for subsidies for that when all the world is hassled about carbon credits and  carbon footprints. There are just too many things occupying the mind, like the simple act of worrying about survival. You see, you never know when a bandh or economic blockade is gonna happen. You are too busy worrying whether your loved ones will be home safe every sunset or be the prey to a stray bombing incident, shootouts or encounters...

Potable water!!! Well, it's a dream. Even after years of independence, many localities and homes do not get access to tap water. You can forget about running water inside homes. This has of course kept the tradition of fetching water from the community pond each evening alive. But that's besides the point. Suffice to say that civilization's common fruits haven't reached Manipur.

And the education system--I don't know where to start or where to end. Post independence, my father's generation went to noted government schools like Johnstone, CC, Ram Lal Paul, Tamphasana Girls. These schools had fine faculty members and facilities that a good school of those days had to have. At present, if you happen visit these schools, you can still find fine faculty members there, but the buildings are like ruins and the facilities seem straight out of the forties. The amenities seem to have been frozen in a time warp. I don't have enough context to talk about the state of affairs in privately owned schools. However, I have an inkling that while the rest of the country uses state-of-art technology in their educational institutions, the same cannot be said for those in Manipur. It's actually a wonder that good students still come from the state. It must be quite a struggle. I am told that many people send their kids to private tutors as schools do not cover the syllabi. Of course, people must be aware that last year, schools in Manipur did not operate for months on end in the stand-off between the government and some activists. In this state of affairs, quality education can only be expected to take a back seat. Sigh. It's a vicious circle.

The environment! Pollution hasn't spared Manipur. Age old traditions of Manipuri youth cleaning the community on weekends have disappeared. People are dumping their wastes on the streets and public places have become garbage dumps. Civil works like a purported sewage system installation have added to the mess as the project has been left midway. To add to the woes of the people, come some rains and the roads become a muddy swamp. No one cares, no one has time to fix these ills. After all, you are only worried about survival. Like I said before, all you care about is whether everyone is home safe and sound...and that no dear one has fallen victim to a stray bullet...