The Prime Minister’s effort to link peace with development in the region will have few buyers. While the assumption can be mechanically forged, recent events in the region prove otherwise – peace is still a distant dream while development is consigned to the lubricated arena of the few, for the few and by the few.
By Dhiren A Sadokpam
‘Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’
The above lines by George Orwell, the English journalist and critic known for his lucid prose and biting social criticism, seem to have woken up to a new contemporary reality close to us – Manipur. Though the state has been at times dubbed as a “failed state” due to numerous state of affairs that run contrary to accepted norms of democratic governance, what has truly attracted the wits of keen observers is the sheer mismatch between political gimmicks and ground reality. Here, one is not referring to the realities of war and peace but of claims and counter claims.
Like all previous regimes, there has been a habitual tendency to claim major achievements on Manipur’s diverse sectors such as Road Infrastructure, Drinking Water Supply, Health, Urban Development, Housing, Information Technology, Skill Development, Art and Culture, among others.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi made tall claims, he might have been accurate with the figures of funds bestowed upon Manipur by the benevolent union government. On Tuesday, while inaugurating 13 projects worth around Rs 1850 crore and laying the foundation stones of nine projects worth around Rs 2950 crore in Imphal, Modi said, “We also have to maintain stability in Manipur and also take Manipur to new heights of development. And only the double engine government can do this work”.
The figures for funds sanctioned and allocated could be correct for each of the sectors mentioned but who dares speak about their success or the achievement? Or have some of these projects been truly implemented for the benefits of the people. The answer is not far to seek. For instance, the Prime Minister referred to ‘Water Transmission system of Thoubal Multi-purpose project’ worth 280 crore which was inaugurated by him. The stated target of the same project is to provide drinking water supply to the Imphal city as if the city did not have an already failed water supply system. So what did the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government do for the last almost five years? Just watch Imphal and greater Imphal areas experience not only an erratic supply system but a failed system. Asked any residents of Imphal city and he or she will tell you how they people buy water from the mushrooming private parties that sell them for an inflated price. Here, it is worth mentioning that Jal Jeevan Mission has already claimed that out of 4.5 lakh rural households in the State, 2.75 lakh (61%) are getting tap water supply in their homes and the state plans to become “Har Ghar Jal” in 2022. Yes, the homes of the 2.75 lakh residents might have been connected with water pipes but no is not sure if all these pipes bring home the Adam’s ale. And a few knows what is the actual status of the ‘Augmentation of Senapati District Headquarter Water Supply Scheme’ built at a cost of Rs. 51 crore.
The inaugurated three projects under ‘Imphal Smart City Mission’, developed at a cost of more than Rs 170 crore, including the Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC)’, ‘Development of Western River front on Imphal River (Phase I)’ and ‘Development of Mall Road at Thangal Bazar (Phase I)’ can be critiqued from different development paradigms. However, these projects and earlier urban development projects always seemed to have skidded off the road with mere cosmetic changes. If there were garbage piled up along the Mall Road at Thangal Bazar few weeks ago, they might have been lifted a couple of days back for momentary enticement of the public. Similar state of affairs awaits other sectors like Health, Housing, Information Technology, Skill Development, Art and Culture etc.
One has been skeptical of all these projects mentioned not because of wild speculations on their possibilities in the near future but because of enormous funds sanctioned earlier and the deceitful claims of achieving each target.
The Prime Minister said that his government had resolved to ‘Act East’ for the Northeast region. He said, “God has given so many natural resources, so much potential to this region. There are so many possibilities for development and tourism here”. He added that work is now being done to realize these possibilities in the region. “Northeast is now becoming the gateway to India’s development”, he said. On the abundant natural resources and potentials of the Northeast, Modi was right on target. However, the efforts on making the region the gateway of India’s development can be styled as mere political rhetoric that can be at best used by a seasoned political propagandist. The quantum and volume of trade transacted in the region will show a different scenario that barely benefits the Northeast. The government of India’s “Act East Policy” too over the years has become a mere topic of academic discourse rather than a reality that truly impacts the Northeast region of India. One is not denying the efforts made so far but the snail-paced implementation of proposed plans and policies with or without funds from international financial institutes.
Modi said “due to the continuous efforts of the double engine government, there is no fire of extremism and insecurity in this region, but there is light of peace and development. Hundreds of youths across the North East have left arms and joined the mainstream of development”. The Prime Minister said the agreements which were pending for decades, the current government has taken these historical accords to conclusion. From a ‘blockade state’, Manipur has become a state giving way for international trade, he said. The Prime Minister’s effort to link peace with development in the region will have few buyers. While the assumption can be mechanically forged, recent events in the region prove otherwise – peace is still a distant dream while development is consigned to the lubricated arena of the few, for the few and by the few. One has also observed that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi while seeking the mandate of the people of Manipur in the coming elections, remained silent on the recent outcry on the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Manipur and the Northeast region. If Modi claims that “there is light of peace and development” why does the Prime Minister shy away from commenting on the rationale of imposing AFSPA in the region? Therein lies the logic of political dominance and subservience. These are some of the instant thoughts one can fathom on the speech delivered by Modi. While most parts of his speech can be critically dissected, one is cornered to belief that political propaganda as such is designed “to make lies sound truthful” and give an “appearance of solidity to pure wind”.
(Dhiren A. Sadokpam is the Editor-in-Chief, The Frontier Manipur)