Should the people of Manipur pull up their collar, preen and grin under the glory of the Best Improved State in Governance Among Small States of India award conferred by the India Today Group on Manipur during the Chief Ministers’ Conclave held at New Delhi recently or should they take this with a big dose of sweetener and swallow yet another blow on their sensibilities ? Even as information of the award reached the newsrooms of the major newspaper houses in Manipur on November 4, its reporters were busy filing the report of three vehicles being reduced to cinders on NH-37 for violating the economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council against the MoU signed between the State Government and the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee. Barely 24 hours after the award was conferred on Manipur for being the best governed State in the country, people had lined up in front of Imo Filling Station at Singjamei to record a four kilometre long queue. A 4 kilometre long queue for fuel in a State populated by a mere 27 or so lakh of people and during peace time makes this all that more remarkable. If this is for fuel, then the prices of vegetables and other essential commodities will surely put Manipur in an unparalleled position, for anyone would be hard pressed to find a place where a kilo of green chillies can cost anywhere above Rs 150 or so. The prices of potatoes and tomatoes are old hat and everyone with an opinion or two have had their say on this. Shopkeepers continue to sell their goods without putting up the price list. There is nothing to indicate that there is a mechanism to monitor the prices of goods being sold in the market, whether it is in whole sale or retail sale. Each is a master unto himself. The destination for school vans has shifted from the schools to the petrol pumps as drivers join the queue and spend the night waiting for their turn to reach the fuel pump. This is not a joke. What then does the Government do ? The mantra to counter the long queues in front of petrol pumps is not to ensure the availability of fuel but to puncture the tyres of vehicles lined up at the pumps overnight. Law and order is one factor that has been given for dispersing the overnight queue and so while the Government and the cops are busy puncturing the tyres of vehicles lined up in front of petrol pumps during the night, some miscreants come, lob a hand grenade at a workers’ shed and then vanish without leaving a trail. Or place a bomb or two at the busy Thangal bazar and then set it off with a timer device, as per the angle given by the cops.
More than 95 days may count for nothing to a Government which is set to complete its second consecutive term, taking the total tally of their days in power to 10 years or somewhere near it. The India Today Group may also have had the same perspective while deciding on conferring the award to Manipur. However, 7 or 8 hours of power supply in 24 hours for the past 10 or so years, the once or twice water supply in a week, that too contaminated ones, could not have been the result of the more than 95 days of economic blockade. The long queues in front of petrol pumps, schools having to close for a day or two since school vans are forced to stay off the road due to lack of fuel, the absurdly high prices that people have to pay for their daily needs, the heartache and the humiliation that the people are forced to face daily are all products of a Government which refused to learn a lesson or two from the 2005 experience. Or maybe, the benchmark to define governance is weird and absurdly below par that the India Today Group deemed it fit to confer the award for best improved State in governance on Manipur. That this award should come when people are forced to spend four/five hours in front of a petrol pump for more than three months must have felt like a bucket of cold water after a hot shower, to the discerning section. It is something like a joke. Definitely, there is something weird in the manner in which Manipur should have been chosen for the award on governance, no matter even if categorisations like Small States prequalify this award. An award, on which reflected glory the people should ideally bask under, has come like a punch below the belt and it is with pain and embarrassment that this point is acknowledged. This is the rot to which Manipur has been dragged into.