In Manipur, the absence of assessment mechanisms has been visible in both Go to the Hills and the War on Drugs. Both of these unfortunately have not had any policy mechanism and have been only Political Constructs with what Pitts called “politics of electoral anxiety” in mind.
By Amar Yumnam
Democracy is a serious matter. It goes much beyond the political and, in fact, the political is only a means to regularise and sustain the collective choice exercised through the individualised levels. Democracy is a product of social choice affected through decentralised individual decisions. Thus, Democracy is a Social Construct and it cannot be otherwise.
This Social Construct necessarily demands generalised policy interventions and not just political interventions. The political interventions and sole political constructs should either evolve into generalised socio-economic interventions or should be withdrawn if unable to get transformed into higher order. Looking at the steps and statements of the present leader of governance in Manipur makes me recall what Belsey said in Critical Practice about the role of a critic: “The object of the critic, then, is to seek not the unity of the work, but the multiplicity and diversity of its possible meanings, its incompleteness, the omissions which it displays but cannot describe, and above all its contradictions. In its absences, and in the collisions between its divergent meanings, the text implicitly criticizes its own ideology; it contains within itself the critique of its own values, in the sense that it is available for a new process of production of meaning by the reader, and in this process it can provide a real knowledge of the limits of ideological representation.” The critic in me has been aroused to assess the existing governance. The World Bank governance studies project team has identified six measures to identify the quality of governance: government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and the control of corruption, voice and accountability, and political stability and absence of violence.
While attempt is not made here to assess the quality of governance in Manipur as it is today, I would certainly reflect on the manifests emanating from the leadership. Here let us recall what Lord Acton had asked: “Are politics an attempt to realise ideals or an endeavour to get advantages within the limits of ethics? Are ethics a purpose or a limit?” The statements and behavioural reflections of the present leadership of governance demand an examination along the lines Lord Acton had envisaged.
There have been instances, to begin with, of extreme reactions to observations of kids on the social media. This is reinforced by the continual approach of presentation of personal preferences as policies of the state. In my last input, I had emphasised that the War on Drugs should be evolved into a Social Construct from the present Political Construct in order that the desired social objectives can be made convergent with the War on Drugs. The governance does not care two straws. Here some inherent governance contradictions are getting manifested in sharp colours. In the context of certain significant numbers of non-deserving individuals being found with ST Certificates and that too in locationally, politically and personally significant administrative unit of Manipur, there have been many queries as to how this could happen. But the leadership has remained silent on this critical issue of governance quality. But one common feature of the statements and social media posts of the leadership is that any non-compliance with his wishes would be dealt with strong punishments a la violently.
Since there are repeated statements of fiercely punishing any non-compliance, the present leadership assumes that there has to be necessary consent to what he utters. By the way, consent is a serious and significant matter in a democracy. Introducing a book titled The Ethics of Consent: Theory and Practice, Franklin G. Miller and Alan Wertheimer write: “It is difficult to conceive of a moral code, especially within a civilized society, without some recognition to the requirement and moral force of consent. People simultaneously have an interest in control over their bodies and possessions and seek to engage in cooperative activities with others on terms that the cooperating parties can mutually accept. A requirement of consent, from a moral perspective, protects people from unauthorized invasions of their bodies and property. In addition to its protective function, consent is a facilitative moral power. Our consent makes interpersonal conduct permissible that would otherwise be prohibited as wrongful. And through our capacity to undertake obligations or bind oneself, consent makes possible cooperative activities in which one person must perform before another and also allows us to create expectations about one’s future behaviour. It is fair to say that modern liberal-democratic societies have been characterized by an ever-growing domain of personal sovereignty, making consent salient across a wide swath of human activities, including sexual relations, employment, medical care, buying and selling, medical research, professional relationships, and so forth.” As John Simmons writes in this book “would we think of consent as privileged in this way to ground important obligations of political allegiance and obedience? First, of course, appealing to consent to explain such central obligations provides them with a clear and uncontroversial source: Voluntary undertakings such as promises and contracts are more readily acknowledged as grounding clear obligations than virtually anything else. And when it comes to moral justifications for interfering in another’s life (as governments necessarily do to their citizens), the principle volenti non fit injuria (roughly, the willing person is not wronged) is equally widely accepted. Second, accepting consent as necessary for political obligation is the clearest possible rejection of the legitimacy of force, intimidation, and custom in structuring political relationships, and so constitutes the clearest possible rejection of the bloody and repressive past history of states. Instead, consent theory affirms the moral importance of individual autonomy or selfgovernment, insisting that our important relationships be those that we choose, not those we are forced or born into. What we consent to provides, the consent theorist tells us, the most reliable expression of our individual wills. So the consent theory of political obligation, far from being attractive only to those raised in a few odd public political cultures, should be attractive to anyone who regards individual freedom and self-determination as important goods or constraining rights.”
Governance principles tell us certain things. Any scheme of things the government announces and implements should necessarily have Assessment Mechanisms as inherent components for effectiveness or otherwise can be ascertained only through evaluation. The absence of assessment mechanisms has been visible in both Go to the Hills and the War on Drugs. Both of these unfortunately have not had any policy mechanism and have been only Political Constructs with what Pitts called “politics of electoral anxiety” in mind. The compliance mechanism adopted by the leadership has been one of Enforced Consent. In this there are also signs of exploiting the prevailing economic scenario of majority of people living on the margins and so many youths remaining unemployed. It looks like that a section of the unemployed youths has been mobilised with material inducements to serve the personal cause of the leadership.
In fine, I must say that basing all on personal preferences of the governance leadership instead of social construction of preferences, enforcing consent rather than generating democratic consent and exploiting the people on the margin for personal objectives amount to deferring Sovereignty in a Democracy. Can it be good for the collective social?
(Amar Yumnam is Visiting Professor, CESS: Hyderabad)