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Freebies, Promises and a Make Belief World

Many freebies have been promised, especially by the BJP, but from where will the money come? Even now, salaries and pensions cannot be paid in time and many pensioners are yet to get their Leave Encashment, DCRG, and Commutation amount of pension. No party seem serious enough to understand the meaning of promises made.

ByRK Nimai

Updated 27 Feb 2022, 3:07 pm

Prime MInister Narendra Modi addressing a poll rally in Imphal (File Photo: IFP)
Prime MInister Narendra Modi addressing a poll rally in Imphal (File Photo: IFP)

 

All political parties promised to work toward repeal of the AFSPA, except BJP which is conspicuously silent on the matter. Repeal is a lengthy process requiring Parliament’s approval; and all the districts may not be ready for lifting of the law; especially portion of the border districts. Despite the recommendation of the Jeevan Reddy Committee for repeal of the law and for insertion of the necessary provisions under UAPA, due to objections from the Defence Ministry nothing had happened. What Manipur needs is not the repeal of the Act per se but rather not extend the application of the law to major areas of the state where normal law and order machinery can handle the situation. That will indicate the understanding of the desire of the people and if the Centre imposes it, so be it and the state and the people can together fight the Centre for it as done in Nagaland. Claiming that the Centre can re-impose it only means the state is subservient and gutless.

Many freebies have been promised, especially by the BJP, but from where will the money come? Even now, salaries and pensions cannot be paid in time and many pensioners are yet to get their Leave Encashment, DCRG, and Commutation amount of pension. No party seem serious of improving the financial health of the state. Without good resources, nothing can be achieved and only the Central schemes can be implemented and that too in a reduced scale due to inability to foot the state share. It is essential that a competent agency is engaged to find out means to improve the financial health of the state. In the past, when the VAT law was framed, Manipur had one of the most advanced laws then in the country as the law was drafted by the National Institute of Public Finance & Policy. Similar efforts can yield benefits, provided their recommendations are implemented systematically. In terms of the economic policies, NPP seems to have done better homework, and one is surprised with that of BJP’s which was claimed to have been developed after wide consultation of about 1.58 lakh.

Mega Eco-tourism project at Loktak will be the death knell of the lake. If Loktak project was not implemented, the lake by now may exist only in paper as most of the surrounding areas would have been farmlands. Corrupt revenue department officials then have allotted land with survey being carried out on boats! The “Wire” has reported that the present government has even misled the High Court on two mega projects of ecotourism and inland waterways at this lake. Not very surprising as ethics, traditions, morality and rules have been systematically violated. Hope Government clarifies on the matter as the affidavit of the government must have been signed by an officer.

Ecotourism is a much bandied word and all manifesto mentions it but it is not clear whether this term is really understood in its true sense. The official definition as per the International Ecotourism Society means “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. In Manipur, emphasis is on constructing concrete monstrosities even in difficult-to-reach destinations and benefit to the local people is sidelined.

What is the definition of meritorious students who will be provided with freebies? Without a proper definition, the promises are not that relevant as the bar can be set very high so that only a handful get the benefit. It may be like the distribution of bicycles to girl students a few years back, which after the photo ops were re-collected. And why scooty, why not e-scooters which will not only send the message of environmental awareness but also reduce the cost of maintenance.

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Congress set a low job target which if done seriously is achievable while the BJP set a high target but what is most surprising is the inability to understand the meaning of the term “start-up”.

Every new venture is not a start-up; most are at the most MSME. For them loans at low interest rate is good. But for a start-up, it should originally be funded by equity participation so that the promoter is not saddled with liability if he fails; and he should be able to find another idea to market. Start-up should be those which have innovation and able to grow exponentially.

Many start-ups in the country and elsewhere have become unicorn in a few years. This is just not possible with the regular MSME and most successful start ups are tech companies. Very few talk about the price rise which hits the poor and with the recent increase in the international crude price; we are in for a rise in fuel prices impacting prices of all items after the elections.

Is there a Manipur Sports University? This was mentioned in the BJP’s manifesto and if it means National Sports University, it show lack of proper proof reading. In almost all manifestos, emphasis is on environment friendly development but it seems that sustainable development is not clearly understood.

NPP opposes monoculture like oil palm plantation which is a positive sign and the assurance that bio-organic waste will be converted to manures is noteworthy. There are technology like hot composting methods which can convert bio waste into manures in 18 days. In fact one Farmers Producers Company in Bishnupur have started converting phumdis into compost using Berkeley hot composting method and they need technology support to expand it and reduce the cost. No party talks about enforcement of the Manipur Flood Plain Zoning Act.1978 which was violated systematically for years leading to flooding and with houses built nearby management is difficult. All allotments issued in violation of the Act must be cancelled to reduce the burden of flood and its management. But with powerful people taking advantage, this is very unlikely.

In agriculture over-emphasis on organic farming without understanding the implications on productivity may lead to over dependence on import of food-grains. Sikkim is an organic state but their people rely on imports from neighbouring states. Use of organic fertiliser is a need of the hour to improve soil health but totally doing away chemical fertilisers is just not possible. There are reports that pure organic cultivation reduces the crop yield by 20% and with large number of mouths to feed, it is just not practical.

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Generally cereals are not grown organically. Newer technologies like hydroponics, aquaponics, vertical farming, etc need to be explored. Efforts must be made to improve paddy varieties for slope-land cultivation and projects sponsored to develop such high yielding varieties.

The tragedy is that once the manifestos were unveiled nobody talks about it and campaigning is on rhetoric rather than on what the party intends to do if elected. In fact in Yaiskul AC, despite the model code of conduct, promises were made to construct houses to some poor without proper houses and even job was assured. Whether the houses will be constructed before the election or are they mere promises to be broken is a moot point.

It is shocking that the BJP candidate of Jiribam assured to shift the border gate from the present location to Laltingkhal to enable free access from across the border to Jiribam. Apologies to migrants at this juncture are dangerous when Manipur is likely to be swamped by migrants after the train reaches Imphal. And that is the reason why JCILP and others have been demanding either proper implementation of the ILP system or have a more powerful law. The level of canvassing has gone very low at gutter level and efforts to hit below the belt have become the norm. The charge that a sitting MLA have done nothing to build a house in Sugnu AC lowers the dignity of MLAs as the main function of MLAs is not building houses. His reply was hard hitting and there is no answer except some lame ones. Intentionally trying to make belief government funding as ruling party’s funding for various welfare measures is mischievous.

Despite cVIGIL, no action seems taken on the press reports of violation of the model code of conduct. Will action be taken only on those reported through cVIGIL and whether press reports are irrelevant especially on those which involve armed groups who are to be confined in their camps? In the ads on cVIGIL, people were shown running away when somebody clicks their wrongdoings, but in real life, the live of the one clicking the photo will be in jeopardy. After seeing the ads, one tends to believe that those in the election apparatus are living in a make belief world totally out of sync with reality.

This election is the bloodiest election till date and there will be no end even after election and those who lost may react violently in their frustration; and the campaigning is nothing but promises and promises, mostly false.

(The views expressed are personal)

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First published:27 Feb 2022, 3:07 pm

Tags:

AFSPAManipur electioneVIGILpoll promisesFreebiespoll manifestos

RK Nimai

RK Nimai

The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur

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