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Slogans and Festivals, Not Social Policy: Whims Rule Manipur

A group presenting traditional music and showcasing tribal instruments

Social Policy is necessarily singular; there can never be more than one Social Policy. Every society has to have a Social Policy of its own and in a way consistent with the culture, ethos, ethnicity, spatial characteristics, locational features, etc.

By Amar Yumnam

One day after the inauguration of the state-sponsored festival, one front-page news in a daily (and reflecting the quality of the preparations as to whether there was application of mind in the arrangements) reports of a display in an Ethnic Park of a supposedly traditional house constructed with locally available inputs. It is reported that the house had been constructed without following the design norms followed by the concerned ethnic group. This has caused jeopardy and embarrassment to the persons looking after the displays and when asked about by the visitors.

A few days earlier, there was a ceremony of a few insurgents surrendering to the government. Within a few days, there were ridiculing responses from some insurgent organisations. But other than this, the surrendering process did not arouse any new feeling among the general public.

Now both these events can be impactful happenings for the people, society and land of Manipur, but have been reduced to just one-shot events. Now it is fairly clear that the idea of policy just does not occur in the minds of powers that be in today’s Manipur. Events and actions are just taken as policy, and thus everything is undertaken without a framework and guiding principles. The Go To Hills was a Slogan without a policy, the War on Drugs too has been just an activism without a policy and so on.

The Sangai Festival should have been under a clear programme for sustaining the facilities being created for future. This immediately calls for application of mind on designing and the composition of the materials. All these should be in convergence with the cultural ethos of the people of the land; alignment with the traditional norms is a very serious institutional intervention. The Festival itself calls for a clearcut approach to the understanding and utilisation of the ecology of the region. This understanding has to be aligned with the spatial characteristics of each place; connectivity networks, transportation system, animal-people relationship and settlement modelling come under this. In short, there should have been a policy on Ethnicity, Culture, Ecology and Spatial Features to constitute the Framework for the conduct of the Festival.

Similarly, the surrendering of insurgents should also be under some clear-cut framework. First, the surrendering should be accompanied by a rehabilitation policy such that everyone feels remaining in the changed status and not going back to insurgency. This has to be attractive only to a limited extent otherwise the youths would start feeling like joining the insurgent organisations for a potential to surrender later for the rehabilitation package. Having said this, the rehabilitation package should be appealing to those who are still insurgents. Second, there should be also manifest display of the unattractiveness of being an insurgent.  Third, it should be at least within a framework of Youth Policy. Overall, the qualitative and the quantitative components are to be structured in a very coherent long-term perspective.

Whatever, the fact remains that the Festival and the Surrender policies cannot be stand-alone policies. A society is a coherent, complete and holistic structure; no component of a society remains and functions in isolation without any network properties with the other components. In fact, it is the networking and interdependence properties that make a society robust or otherwise. It is a singular overriding objective that drives the different parts together.

There may be an Education Policy. There may be a Sports Policy. There may be a Population Policy. There may be Security Policy. There may be a Gender Policy. There may be a Policy on what not. But all these policies should be convergent and coherent with each other in such a way that the Society moves ahead in the Most Possible Robust way and with the different components not pulling in opposite directions.

In other words, there has to be one Policy seated on top and giving directives to all other policies representing the different components on how to go about and inculcating the ultimate objective of society. This is called Social Policy; every other policy has to function aligning to the Objectives defined in the Social Policy. While there are many policies relating the diverse sectors of the society, but the Social Policy is necessarily singular; there can never be more than one Social Policy. Every society has to have a Social Policy of its own and in a way consistent with the culture, ethos, ethnicity, spatial characteristics, locational features, etc. A Social Policy for Maharashtra cannot be a substitute for the one needed for Manipur; Manipur should have a Social Policy of her own.

In the context of contemporary digital world with strong information technology presence, Manipur today faces many unresolved issues. What is even more unfortunate is that these issues are left unattended. There is already a big tussle between scientific values and civic virtues. Without a space for fitting themselves in, quite many youths are easily available for manipulation and instigation for personal purposes by the political players. The civic values themselves are under heavy pressure. The risks one encounters in social life are undergoing compositional and directional changes. In this atmosphere, the spheres of personal and state responsibility are getting confused and increasingly undefined. The very plurality of the geography and demography have not yet been incorporated to evolve a contextualised policy. There are painful scenarios of social inequality getting unfolded which do conflict with the traditional moral values. Even insurgency has just been seen as law-breaking, and not as a by-product of the social dynamics in play.

In fine, let us stop playing diversionary tactics in governance. When the just concluding farming season could not be properly and responsibly attended to by the governance, bring in a festival to divert the attention of the people from one of angst to another of festivity. When some governance failure occurs, mobilise some people for some show, and try to divert the people’s attention from the failures to something else. These would not serve any long-term purpose, but would only worsen the pangs of inequality; there are already a significant proportion of population who are unable to participate either in the interplay of the market and governance or in the propaganda games. Manipur today NEEDS A SOCIAL POLICY without delay.

(Amar Yumnam Visiting Professor, CESS, Hyderabad.)

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