Nowadays, the time in the calendar is filled with festivities and everyone is looking forward to the celebrations. For the Meitei community, October 21 marks a special day, it is Ningol Chakouba time. It is time for the women to go their parental home with fruits, sweets etc. The family will welcome the women and feast together, it is indeed a nostalgic affair when the family ties are strengthened again, the men of the house will buy fish and prepare a sumptuous meal for the sisters.

The Manipuri society cannot be connoted as a patriarchal one and we have all the respect for women. However, crime against women are perpetrated by men and at most times by women also. Recently, there was a photo of a couple being mobbed by women, the victim was forcibly tonsured by the other women and it was a very ugly sight. But, a case was registered later by the victim and 10 people including the women who participated in the mob were arrested by the police afterwards.

Another news which was published about some women making merry at a café at Singjamei area, ‘Puzzle restaurant’ on Diwali night was also a puzzle. According to the report which seem to border more on sensationalism rather than an ethical news report was carried and photo of the women being taken into custody was also published. As per the report, one women had went to see the party held at Puzzle restaurant and found some women dancing in an inebriated state. She later informed some activist organization and later called the police. Now, the question is, if the party had happened in a top notch hotel, would the organizations have gone there and taken action. Can women not drink in parties? Can women not dance in a private party? If yes or no, who makes and the rules and who keeps them. Who is the moral police and how clean are they themselves is a pertinent question here. Recounting a tale of Jesus in the Bible…when a woman was caught for adultery and was about to be stoned as per the law, Jesus had said ‘those who have never sinned cast the first stone.’ The moot point is that women should be given a space to correct themselves if the society instead of subjecting them to public humiliation. The scars left behind would ruin their lives and those of their near and dear ones. It is not one’s ambit to judge people or women and for that , the judiciary is there.

Why should a woman be reprimanded if she has done no wrong to the society, if she has not broken any laws ! Should not women be allowed to have a reprieve and forgiven for an error more than men. It is basically women who bear the brunt as they are more vulnerable in this Meitei society. Instead of focusing on these core issues, the trend of Meitei society today is towards social ostracism of its women. Social ostracism on fickle moral grounds and stigmatization that follows are the resultant of a failed state that has failed to secure and uplift its women. The increasing poverty rate marginalizes women further and pushes them back in the social strata thereby preventing them from participating in making decisions that pertain them and their interests. Thus evidently, the state and its laws are doing more harm to women than the claims Well! We all live and learn and hope to correct the problems in our own ways. However, that way must be wise and mature decision taken in the larger interest and not haphazardly. To all the women of the state, wishing a very happy Ningol Chakouba.  

Leader Writer: Paojel Chaoba

Delinquent festive fever

The festival of lights was here. It was celebrated with fervor and merriment. It will be followed by Ningol Chakouba, another awaited festival. As curtain raiser to this festival, every year, fairs are organised at different pockets, in and around the town. Exhibitions and sales of handloom products under the initiative of the State government and its department have already begun. The Fishery department has announced that it will showcase indigenous varieties of fish, especially on the eve of the Ningol Chakouba. Besides the big commercial establishments doing roaring business, this is also time for small traders, self-help groups, and marginal entrepreneurs to try their hands in earning small profits for subsistence. The festive fever is more pronounced at Khwairamband Keithel with shoppers bustling; bursting at the seams. A good number of street vendors do not mind spending the entire night on the BT road. This is indicative of the fact that the daily battle for vending space right in the heart of the Keithel gets harsher with the coming of the festive season. Even in the middle of the night they are seen busy rearranging their wares ranging from vegetable, fruits and assorted items, which are to be offered in religious rituals.It is certain these vendors at the margins must have little idea of what ‘Night Plaza’ or ‘Imphal Evening’ which take place during weekends at a stone’s throw away from their vending place, under active patronage of the state government. But they are the unsung heroes of Imphal nightlife who never give up; who brave rain-heat-cold and police harassments the whole year round. It is hoped that they will not be pushed away to ill-disposed fringes in the future in the name of showcasing an ‘investment-friendly’ and ‘peaceful’ Imphal.

This year, like the previous years the district authorities particularly of the valley have banned use and sale of firecrackers during the celebration of Diwali to maintain public tranquility. But one can still experience the sound of crackers bursting from every nook and corner of the valley, much like the digital surround sound system in a movie theatre. Crackers are openly sold in the market despite the ban. Perhaps the ban order from the authorities have come a little too late. Or is it a sign of collective delinquency both on the part of the authority and the public. Should we add that the current festive session indicates one crude example of collective delinquency? Diwali or Jibanita is perfect time for gambling popularly known as Lagao. One can see it on the roadsides, at the leikai corners. Lagao mushrooms in these places when daylight fades. Here, people of all ages across-the-board take part. This reveals that there is a kind of social sanction attached to the game – the game of earning quick and easy money. Besides Lagao, we also have the Housie taking place in many parts of the valley, with wide ranging quantum of prize money. Within the last decade or so, Housie had started to take a different form, so much so that there were reports of Housie cartels getting busted by the police. The irony is that foot soldiers of the State police take equal part in gambling such as Lagao, that too in the name of controlling it. Not to mention that the state police celebrated its 125 years of existence under the motto ‘Service Always Everywhere’ just yesterday. But the sad part is there is no sign of this collective delinquency getting ‘treated’ in the festive sessions to come. One can say that Lagao is an expression of, an enactment of a story that we tell ourselves to understand ourselves. This delineation would take us far afield, but it should suffice, for our purpose here, to say that the story that we tell of ourselves through Lagao cannot be a very happy story. Since this is a story that we tell of ourselves, this sad story, sad to say, shall continue.

Leader Writer: Senate Kh.

From Manipur with love

The Dalai Lama’s visit to the state, other than the instant chemistry he found with the people here, has also done good to bring the Tibet question to the fore. It is also remarkable that he could talk of Tibet without any sense of bitterness, not even against China. It however goes without saying that regardless of whether he no longer has any ill will against China, the fact is Tibet remains China’s 50 year itch. Although Mao’s People’s Liberation Army overran this vast and largely barren land in 1949-1951 it was not until 1959 that things came to a head when a failed uprising forced the Tibetan people’s supreme spiritual leader – and temporal head till only a few years ago –and his followers to flee to India and seek political refuge. Ostensibly India allowed the Dalai Lama to set up a Tibetan Government in Exile within its territory out of humanitarian considerations, but it is now known the CIA had a hand in this decision. The Americans nudged the then Indian government to extend the fleeing Dalai Lama sanctuary, but also had alternative destinations should the India refuse. It may be recalled, the Americans were then on a global war against the spread of Communism. Lezlee Brown Halper’s 2013 book “Tibet: The Unfinished Story” based on declassified CIA files says as much. For many reasons, not also because of the Tibet question, India-China relations took a nosedive thereafter and it hit a nadir after 1962 when the Chinese army crossed the McMahon Line and virtually took over the entire Arunachal Pradesh, and reached Tezpur. The defeated Indian Army withdrew from Assam to defend the mainland and this episode is remembered for what was purportedly the then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, farewell to Assam “My heart goes out to Assam…etc..”. Of course we know this speech which is still a cause for a great deal of bitterness, is a figment of imagination of spin doctors, perpetuated by endless repetition by sloppy academics and journalists. We say this because the speech on All India Radio, AIR, is still very much in the AIR archives, and even Neville Maxwell, India baiter and author of “India’s China War” quotes it accurately. The speech indicates a very distressed Nehru saying sorry to Assam but promising that this is not the end and India would hit back. Much water has flowed down the river Brahmaputra ever since, and a great deal of changes have happened in the relation between the two countries. Not many today think the two countries will fight a war again, not only fearing unnecessary pains they would inflict on each other, but also for the fact that the two emerging economic giants stand to lose their unquestionable leadership in the new world economic order. This was very much demonstrated at Doklam recently when in the face of severe mutual provocations, nothing went beyond sabre rattling.

In this sense, the Tibet issue has not been an itch for China alone, but for India as well. Indeed, the ambiguity over the McMahon Line has a direct relation to the status of Tibet. It may be recalled how the McMahon Line came into being after the Simla Conference of 1913-1914 between the British India Government and Tibet. China was invited but it walked out saying Tibet was part of China and had no right to enter into an independent treaty with another country. China thus refused to recognize the McMahon Line from its inception. From his interaction with the media today, it does seem the Dalai Lama is on a reconciliatory path. Unlike some radical elements amongst the Tibetan diaspora who have and still do encourage India to recognise Tibet’s sovereignty to make the McMahon Line legitimate before international law, the Dalai Lama seems satisfied with the status quo of Tibet as an autonomous but culturally distinct part of China. In his own words while answering a query, he sees his position not as pessimism or optimism, but an acknowledgment of ground reality.

Again, since ancient Tibet is defined more as a cultural domain, when this domain is translated into hard territory to fit the modern definition of a nation state, it would include as per the Tibetan’s own national imagination, not just the Tibet Autonomous Region and the traditional Amdo, Kham and Ngari regions of China, but also Ladakh, Sikkim and parts of Arunachal Pradesh in India. It may be recalled that it is on the basis of this claim of cultural contiguity that China still raises heckle that Arunachal Pradesh should form part of its province of Tibet. Unfortunately, modern states are no longer defined by such terms any more. Otherwise, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and a greater part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire would be one state today. While we empathise with the plight of the Tibetans, we have no authority or competence to even attempt a verdict on the issue. But from the perspective of peace and regional harmony, we see no other way out of this entangle than was suggested by an article in The Wall Street Journal once. China must concede to comprehensive autonomy for its Tibet Autonomous Region, ensuring the protection of the distinct Tibetan identity both culturally and demographically. Reciprocally, the Tibetans must realise there is no real option to such a resolution and give up all their claims of sovereignty. The Dalai Lama seems to have bought this outlook, and although he has not said it directly, indicates his acceptance to such an arrangement. We see no reason why China should not drop its suspicion of this great leader and explore the option earnestly. In the meantime, our well wishes go out to His Holiness for a safe journey back to Dharmasala tomorrow. You truly are an incarnate of love, compassion, humility and accommodation.

Tibet’s new road

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is on his maiden visit to Manipur and it is anybody’s guess that everybody feel blessed that this venerable man of peace and compassion, winner of the Peace Nobel Prize, should accept the invitation to come. Developments in the Tibet affairs ought to be of immense interest to other conflict regions of the world, the Northeast above all, being as it is a neighbour of Tibet. The spiritual leader and for a long time temporal head of the Tibetans too, seems now to have accepted the reality that things have changed radically. They are certainly not as they were when he and his faithful followers were led to rebel against the Chinese in the wake of the latter’s occupation of their country in 1951. Deeply spiritual Tibet became one of the worst victims of a regime that did not believe in religion and the Dalai Lama had to flee his birthplace in 1959 to take refuge in India, where he set up the Tibetan Government in Exile, in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. Things only went from bad to worse in his country after his departure in the wake of the China’s infamous “Cultural Revolution” that derecognized all religions and sought to destroy all symbols of them in a gross misinterpretation of Marx’s statement that religion is an opiate of human societies. Tibet again was one of the worst victims. In the recent past, the Dalai Lama has been indicating that his interest is no longer cessation of Tibet from China, but a comprehensive autonomy for the Tibetans within China so that the Tibetans can be themselves with respect and dignity within China. In fact, a decade ago there were even wide speculations that the leader would accept a peace dialogue with Beijing to find a final answer to the Tibet question. The Dalai Lama’s appeal individually as well as a spiritual leader is in no doubt whatsoever, attracting sympathies and followings worldwide. It remains to be seen now much his clout will continue to be a political force. Indeed, he does remain a political force though he has voluntarily renounced active politics in 2012.

The compulsions that are driving the Tibetans and Dalai Lama to accept the new world order, and the place Beijing occupies in this, is there for everybody to see. No country in the world today wants to antagonise China, in terms of trade relations as well as military. This does not however mean the Dalai Lama’s moral authority over the Tibetans in exile or in Tibet has diminished in any way. His hold over his people remains near total and that even radical groups among them like the Tibetan Youth Congress, are unlikely to challenge his authority, at least not seriously. In the past, whenever the issue of a compromise with China cropped up, these groups have been known to go public with muted statements like “the Dalai Lama is a saint, not a politician”, but expressions of disenchantment with him have never gone beyond these. The Tibetans love and revere their supreme leader too much to actually challenge his authority, and reciprocally, the Dalai Lama has never turned a deaf ear to their sufferings.

If at all a rift can happen, it is on the issue of a compromise settlement with China, but this I unlikely. For one, the Dalai Lama’s new mind is in keeping with the shifts in geopolitics, and the intelligent man that he is, he would have realized that to not acknowledge these shifts would amount to asking for tragedy for himself and more importantly, for his people. The biggest shift in this regard began with the end of the Cold War that pitted the alliance of Capitalist Western nations called NATO against the Communist Soviet Bloc also called the Warsaw Pact nations. There was a third movement that emerged, in actuality a shadow of the Cold War known as the Non Align Movement, NAM, but it is significant that with the dropping of the final curtain on the Cold War the NAM too made an unceremonious exit from world politics. The Cold War made issues like Tibet important. The Dalai Lama’s birthplace became an important pawn in the battle of ideologies. Arguably, the Nobel Peace Prize that the Dalai Lama won in 1989, richly deserved as it was, would have to be seen in the context of the Cold War, which was than at its shrillest peak. If this was not so, the West would not have abandoned the Dalai Lama’s cause so readily after the Soviet Union collapsed, and begin courting their former antagonist, China the way they have thereafter. On the other side, China too has transformed in its own perception of itself and others. It is today an economic powerhouse, but not only that, it has seemingly acknowledged and repented its past mistakes in its internal cultural politics. Journalist visitors, including from India, who have toured Tibet noted with amazement the kind of attention and money the country is sinking into this semi-arid, sparsely inhabited plateau. We are however in no position to be judgmental, but we do wish that the Dalai Lama’s people in the end will get to see a peaceful resolution to their problem, much as we are certain the Dalai Lama will be wishing the people of Manipur and the Northeast the same fortune tomorrow when he speaks to them for the first time.

History’s pitfalls

If history was merely about records, probably there would not have been such a fuss about it. But the fact is, it is not, and rightly so too, for records, indispensable though they may be, are not in themselves complete stories and they have first to be given a coherent meaning and a binding thread to demonstrate how they are a string of causes and consequences. History tells of how data are not only interrelated but also products of volitional acts of the people whose story it tells. This central binding thread is without doubt the state institution, which is also why it is often said people among whom the state institution had not evolved were non-historical. Indeed, what would history tell if it is not about the state? But sometimes such answers can pose further problems. This is so because there is always a subjective element in the interpretation of historical data leaving room for differing and indeed alternative interpretations. One is reminded of the immensely popular little book by Prof. E.H. Carr “What is History?” If history is about causality the question “what caused what?” can become not only complex but contentious? In a different context, Nietzsche may have anticipated this complexity when he said famously that “there are no facts, only interpretations”. This complexity is today manifest loudly again in Manipur, say for instance in the varying interpretations of the life of Hijam Irabot, or the events that led to the controversial merger agreement that brought Manipur formally into the Indian Union. Was Irabot for delinking Manipur from India? Was Manipur’s merger with India foretold by the historical trajectory the erstwhile kingdom as on, or was it a rude disruption of a uniquely independent pathway that led to a course shift in the kingdom’s history? Manipur’s search for itself and a lasting resolution to its identity crisis will have to begin with an introspective and honest search for answers to questions such as these.

So what is history then? What caused history of any place as it is popular understood? The safest approach is obvious. Stick as close to records as possible in the search for the binding sinews of history. This is not always possible, especially were records are scanty. In non-literate or poorly literate societies, this shortcoming can get acute. But even where there are plenty of records, it has been the habit of history writers to not pay enough attention to them and instead depend overly on their private theories, intuitions and biases. It may be recalled how William Darymple in many interviews after the phenomenal success of his “The Last Mughal” had pointed this out to the embarrassment of many Indian scholars. The book is about Bahadur Shah, and his role in the Indian Mutiny of 1857 against the British colony. Piles of documents relating to the event, including government orders, correspondences, petitions, counter petitions etc, of both the British administration and the Mughal emperor, in English and Urdu, numbering in the thousands, exist. There were even well preserved copies of four different Urdu journals in Delhi relating the developments of those days. However, almost all of them remained largely untouched in the mutiny archives, and according the Darymple, the last time some them were accessed before he did was about 80 years ago. And yet, numerous treatises have been written on the Indian Mutiny, numerous myths and legends built around it, inspired Bollywood blockbusters etc. What is history then? Fact, fiction, convenient invention, fantasy…? This musing is relevant, for in the course of history of any place, we all have witnessed how villains have transformed into heroes and vice versa depending on who is interpreting their contributions to history.

We bring up this issue amidst the eagerness of Manipur to celebrate or condemn chapters from its own history in recent times. As elsewhere, much of the pet theories of the place’s history are based on untested and unchallenged assumptions. Scholarship in the field is still marked by a unique shallowness evident even in studies of the place’s recent past. How many scholars and academics have actually hunted out the records of say the number of prisoners the British sent on exile to the infamous Kala Pani, now known as Andaman and Nicobar Islands after their 1891 conquest of Manipur. There was already a literate section in the Manipur society then, surely they too must have put their thoughts down in ink and paper at some point even if these have not been published yet. There would also be records of these events in the British archives, most of which would also be found in the National Archives in New Delhi. Why has no researcher in our institutions of higher education accessed them yet? Come to think of it, we still are not even certain how the name of such a towering iconic figure as Hijam Irabot is spelled. Is it the Sanskrit “Irawat” or is it the word’s Manipuri corruption “Irabot”? The man was literate and so he must have left behind originally signed documents in which his name is spelled the way he wanted it to be spelled. We do not have to wait for another Darymple to come and point this out for us, do we?

Thus far and no more

Signs are, the ILPS issue is far from over despite the President rejecting one of the three bills, the only original one, and the returning for reconsideration the other two which seek amendments to existing Acts with the aim of ensuring land transfer to non “Manipur Person” is not easy. To give a positive reading of the President’s decision, it must be said that the Union cabinet on which advice the President would have acted, is not altogether averse to the idea of a restrictive law to control unchecked influx of migrants into small states like Manipur and land transfers to them. If this wasn’t so, all three bills would have been rejected. Moreover, according to news reports emanating from New Delhi, the first bill was rejected by the President because of the choice of 1951 as the base year for deciding who is a “Manipur Person”. The IFP has been consistent on this point, in fact suggested in an editorial immediately after the bills were passed that probably the ILPS demand was being split into three bills with all the controversial clauses packed into one, so that if this was rejected, the two others would come through and thus pacify the agitators for the law’s implementation. There is no law, national or international, which will accept the disenfranchisement of anybody who has been resident of a place for so many years, even if the person is a migrant settler. There have been exceptions no doubt, as for instance Chakmas and Brus (Reangs) who remain as aliens in Mizoram, and in the case of the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh, despite having lived in these states for generations. It is also well known that even migrants from the impoverished Chin State in Myanmar have more difficulties naturalising as citizens in Mizoram than in Manipur. These of course are uncivil resorts beyond rule of law, and even if these instances are being overlooked as of the moment, no respectable government would desire or allow their replication anywhere else. It will be recalled, 1951 as cut off year for citizenship could not happen in Assam despite long agitations, and now it is not being allowed in Manipur too, and nobody should resent this, for this is the norm the international community has set for itself as a human rights standard.

We have no doubt that the first bill was rejected because it transgresses a human rights standard, and not because the 1951 census did not exist or was imperfect. The Indian decadal census exercises are an inheritance of the British colonial administration, and it is well known the strength of the British colonial rule was in its meticulous censuses and surveillances. Theirs was, as has been described so aptly, rule by enumeration. Why 1951, they would even have accurate 1931 census and earlier. As for instance, when the historic Kuki uprising happened in 1917, the colonial administrators had records of every village, their chiefs, their populations etc. The reason the British took long to suppress the rebellion, according to L.W. Shakespear, in “A History of Assam Rifles” is that the Assam Rifles, then Assam Military Police, was left with only fresh recruits, as they had been drained of their experienced soldiers, having sent away nearly 2000 to join the Gurkha Rifles and other Army units to fight the First World War in Europe. It was indeed for the part it took in the WWI that it was given the title Assam Rifles. Similarly, while dealing with the Angamis in the Naga Hills, the British had intelligence of every village, knew which was hostile and which not, and not only this they even knew the clan groupings (Khels) within each village and the mutual clan hostilities, if at all etc. The most revealing of this nature of governance by surveillance is evident in a letter dated February 20, 1851, by Lord Dalhousie the then Governor General, warning the Manipur king that his kingdom will be erased if he does anything inimical to the interest of the British crown (annexure in Alexander Mackenzie’s History of British relationship with the Frontier Tribes of Bengal). His ire was in response to a report by a British officer, one Mr. Jenkins posted in Nowgong, that the “Manipur Rajah” was befriending and helping “unfriendly” Angami villages. We know census exercises are now no longer accurate, but not because they leave out remote villages in the hills, but because they enumerate non-existent villages in the hills. International development NGOs such as IFAD and so too government projects like the ICDS will vouch they never encounter villages which are not there on paper, but do come across plenty which are there on paper but not on the ground. The Central government’s incentive structuring for development investments which lays a premium on numbers have ensured this. Again, the 1951 census is often cited by scholars in Mizoram in writing of the Mizo identity formation. In 1951 there were a number of tribes in the then Lushai Hills, the most numerous and influential being the Lushais, but surprisingly there were no entry for Mizo. In the 1961 census, however, because of the commendable ground work done by the then newly formed Mizo Union to unify the population under a common Mizo nationalism, most of the tribes, including Lushais, disappeared from the census record, all of them having identified themselves as Mizos. The tribes which refused to disappear from the 1961 census to become Mizos broadly are the ones facing frictions with the Mizoram state at present. If the 1951 census was fine in Mizoram, there is no reason why it would not have been okay in Manipur. In Nagaland however, there would have been problems of another kind, for in 1951 another momentous census exercise was underway in the shape of A.Z. Phizo’s historic “Naga Plebiscite”. Moreover, Mon and Tuensang districts were still part of NEFA and not the Naga Hills.

The way ahead for Manipur then is also obvious? Lower the cut-off date to a legally acceptable and humanitarian limit. The feared demography upset can get bad, especially in view of the imminent coming of the Asian Highway and railway line, but as of the present the situation is far from lost. The approach therefore should be one of “thus far but no more”. To such an approach, there would be no constitutional way the bills can be blocked again. If the hills are still apprehensive, maybe even think of defining “Valley People” based on a reasonable parameter of settlement, and not “Manipur People”, and get going. The hills are already protected and it is the valley which is vulnerable to demography upsets.

The goal should not fall

India’s journey in the FIFA U-17 World Cup has come to an end with its third match with Ghana on October 12. Team India lost three times, first with USA, second with Colombia and lastly with Ghana. However, a history has been created for India in the FIFA for the first time though in under 17. More importantly, India scored the first ever World Cup level goal in its second match against Columbia on October 9 and this is undeniably a history. The goal was scored by a young midfielder from Manipur, Jeakson Thounaojam.

Out of 21 players of India National Under-17 Football Team, there are eight players from Manipur. The captain of the team is another midfielder from Manipur, Amarjit Kiyam. Meanwhile, how anyone can forget the star footballer Dheeraj Moirangthem, who has millions of fans throughout the nation. The power house of sports has given quite strong young players to the country. When the scenario is looked upon the state of Manipur, there are thousands of aspirants who want to become footballer and the aspiration drives them so strong that their practice is rigorous. They play in the mud and dust but they play. If a survey for young football enthusiasts is carried out through most of the remote areas of the state, the result would be highly positive. Precisely, if an effective infrastructure is given, only the local boys could form the national football team. Also the former India captain Renedy has once said that Manipur has always been a hotbed for Indian football.

When it comes to football, there are more to speak about as the state has one of the strongest players in women too. The Arjuna awardee, Oinam Bembem Devi is the name. The woman is the flagbearer of Indian women's football team for over the past two decades and became the second Indian woman footballer to win the award after Shanti Mullick in 1983.

There is absolutely no origin for football in Manipur, but the kind of sports has surely brought the meaning of sports to the people that have made the youths to go forward to play and to win. This FIFA U-17 World Cup was a grand opportunity for the young players to play in the international level and this will not stop them. The spirit is still in their heart and soul to play more to have the glorifying day. The whole people of the state have the same spirit when the matches were going on. The roads were almost empty in all the three days of FIFA U-17 matches. It is heard that all the three matches were screened on wide canvas in many places of Manipur, just to enjoy the matches in larger view. Well, the appreciation for football never dies in Manipur. May be after few years, it may become a synonymous for sports in the state. The wave of the sports is unrolling in such a way that it will justify the term ‘Power House of Sports’ more productively in the future.

On the flipside, there is a kind of tradition from the government side to offer jobs to the glorifying sportspersons, just to mark that the responsibility of government towards them. To be true, security is the main thing for any person in this congested and competitive society. But why should a sportsperson face the issue of livelihood. Players play just like the government employees work in their offices to get salary, however players do not play for salary but to earn the dignity of the nation. Sportspersons should be secured enough to go forward for their own lives and should be given maximum privileges. Once a player is given a job in some department, he or she will be confined to his or her work to earn salary and eventually the calibre of sportsmanship will die inside the four walls. Instead of giving jobs, the players should be sponsored to the maximum extent on their particular areas of sports.

The boys who are part of the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup are the seeds of the nation to grow bigger on larger arena. They are not the beginners but the beginning of football of a nation. All the boys should be given further more effectual training and infrastructure instead of manipulating their mind and attitude with unnecessary rewards of this materialistic world.

Leader Writer:  Khogen Khoibam

Small election, big money

The results of the fifth Panchayat elections of six valley districts are out. As the votes were cast with ballot paper, counting has taken a little longer. To elect 60 Zilla Parishad members, 161 Pradhans, and 1513 Ward members, Panchayats of Thoubal, Bishnupur, the twin districts of Imphal, and the newly created Kakching and Jiribam districts went to poll on October 7. The air is still filled with cacophonous jubilation of the supporters of winning candidates. Not to exaggerate, the celebrations are on par with the celebrations aftermath the Assembly elections of February this year. In the same vein, the Panchayat elections this time saw an unprecedented rise in election expenditure by the candidates. But very much unlike the Assembly elections, there are no specific guidelines to regulate the expenditures. It must be said that this is one serious shortcoming of the Panchayat election system. The State Election Commission, which is the authority of conducting the elections, should seriously consider framing expenditure ceilings. We have seen candidates and their supporters entertaining the voters with feast and assorted gift items. There are also unconfirmed reports of voters being distributed money by candidates and their supporters to secure their votes. In simple words, election like this one has become a breeding ground for bribery and all kinds of malpractices, which can ruin the engine of democracy. Commentators have observed that the simple logic of investing huge money into Panchayat election is ‘return’. This comes in the names of various Central schemes. One such scheme is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employee Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA). Initiated during the time of the then Congress led UPA government in the Centre to generate rural employment, MGNREGA has not been received well by the current Prime Minister. Its critics have termed the scheme as wasteful. They have pointed out alleged lack of quality of the rural assets created out of it. Yet, it seems the NDA government at this point of time has no intention of scrapping the scheme. After all, no other scheme has given jobs to the rural unemployed in such a massive scale in the history of independent India. Therefore, for the time being, it is safe to presume that money will continue to flow into the hands of Panchayat elected representatives through this scheme.

Through the enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) as local government organisations was strengthened through delineation of clear areas of jurisdiction, investiture of adequate power, authority and funds commensurate with responsibilities. Panchayat Raj Institution is assumed to be the backbone of the idea of an empowered Indian village. It enacts and implements various rural developmental programmes. PRI addresses the need and aspirations of the local people at the grassroots level. Besides, the Panchayat programmes aim that economic and social transformation of rural areas reaches the disadvantaged sections. If affectively administered the Panchayati Raj Institution has the potential to achieve various rural developmental goals. Another serious shortcoming, if we are to point out, is the dysfunctional Gram Sabha in almost all the Panchayats of the state. It is a mandatory periodic meeting where all plans for the work of the Gram Panchayat are placed before the people. The meeting is an institutional mechanism to ensure accountability and transparency by keeping an eye on the elected representatives in their execution of schemes related to generation of employment in the village. To sum up, PRI system in the state needs the framing of rules to check election expenditures. It also needs to live up to the intent of the Gram Sabha. Or else it will continue to make loud noises like the crackers of the winners and their supporters.

Leader Writer: Senate Kh.

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Imphal Free Press is a widely circulated English daily published in Manipur, North-East India. Started in 1996, it has relocated its head office from Sega Road, Imphal to Palace Gate, Imphal.

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