Economic development : Special focus on the hills of Manipur

Kachui Timothy Zimik, IRS
1. Quality of Education: We need to have good quality of education. No option here. To begin with, our studentshave to learn English language from the early stage. Since our mother tongue is confined to our small group only, we haveto learn this foreign language for our survival. English is the most spoken language of the World. In today’s globalized modern age, English plays the crucial role as a lingua franca in the field of education, business, media, entertainment and science and technology. English also acts as a major medium of communication in the unprecedented process of economic globalisation. For ourstudents, English is so important for their success in life. Good command over English is required to pass all examinations including competitive ones. In all international organizations of repute, English has become prerequisite for advanced positions.Let us see how our neighbours are doing. Today, about 350 to 400 million Chinese are learning English. In Chinese schools, English is a compulsory subject from primary stage. Countries like Singapore, Philippines and some other countriesare even ahead of China and India. In India, about 136 million people speak English. Many states in India are now teaching English in primary schools as compulsory subjects.Whatever the advantage our peoplehave so far is because of our English speaking population. But other people are learning English very fast. If you have high standard of English, you can take full advantage that this language gives you. You can be a writer, a teacher, a scientist, an entrepreneur, an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer or a professional of your choice.
The myth that our people are not good in science and mathematics is a fallacy. To be good in these subjects, all that is required is ‘hard work and regular practice’. Hard work is the medicine for success.Many students stop at just reading stage. This will not do. They must not only read but study and practise writing on regular basis to succeed. Our students are as good as any student in the world. But it is a fact that a student who is very poor in English will also be poor in science and mathematics because all science/mathematicssubjects are written in English only and all questions, answers, etc. will also be in English only.The author vividly remembers one incident even after so many years why he failed miserably in Don Bosco Imphal admission test for fourth standard. He could not understandthe maths questions in English because he did not know the meanings of some English words therein the test questions. After four years, he made one more attempt and got the admission in Don Bosco, Imphal.
Native languages/dialects should be given their importance. But these dialects should not be made very complicated and tough for the students. If they can read, write and speak fluently, that should be enough. In these subjects, examination markings should be very liberally done because ourstudents are going to compete for admissions in top colleges outside the state for higher studies against other outside students who score 90% plus to 100%. Even the topper of Manipur in the state Board Examination finds it difficult to get admission in the top colleges of Delhi.
2. Eco-Tourism: We know now that global warming impacts us in many ways. We live on hilly/ mountainous region and yet, we have destroyed our forests and trees that sustain us. Now our hills and mountains are deforested and do not retain the water anymore. Our life sustaining springs and rivers have dried up particularly in dry season. There is water crisis in every village. These very hills, mountains, landscapes, springs, rivers, trees, herbs, animals are our most valuable assets. They make our place scenic, attractive and beautiful. And yet, we destroy them.We should not do that. In fact, we must do everything in our power to restorethem back to their healthand preserve them. Now is the time.   In order to make eco-tourism a story of success, we must ensure that top security is provided to tourists andsafety of children and womenis guaranteed. Absolute zero tolerance to sexual harassmentof any kind is enforced by the society – all men and women acting as protectors.We provide clean environment and we also make our area fully organic.In recent visit, the author finds the whole Sikkim is already an organic and plastic-free state.Bhutan has done even betterin cleanliness and environmental protection.Every tourist wants to go there because he finds the place peaceful, safe, clean, beautiful and full of greenery.
3. Agro-forestry: Agro-forestry or growing trees in combination with agricultural crops is practised by our people. However, the shifting cultivation (jhum) cycle is getting reduced very fast on account of increased population pressure on land resourceswhich leads to severe land degradation and soil erosion. Our traditional agro-forestry system has become unsustainable. We need to do something about it fast. One way is to introduce horticulture based agro-forestry systems in our area quickly. We can start with planting of high-value fruit trees such as apple fruits, dragon fruits, avocado fruits, mangoes, kiwi fruits, yongchak, etc. on our land.We must also introduce medicinal plants and herbs, spices, and exotic vegetables for commercial purposes in a systematic manner.Considering our hilly and mountainous slopes, average elevation of about 5400ft. above sea level, wet summer and cold and dry winter and favourable climatic conditions, many of these fruit trees can be commercially grown there. These fruits have good shelf life, are expensive and marketable. Saplings of different varieties of such fruits are available with the Horticulture Department of Manipur, suppliers in Imphal Valley, Dimapur, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, etc.
Another equally important economic activity is to plant high-value and fast growingtimber trees of different varieties on privately owned lands or on a portion of thefarmlandsalong with the existing crops. In every village, there are also many degraded forest/barren lands which are owned by the community.These lands should be properly utilized. For this purpose, we may set up village cooperative societies in which each household in the village will become a permanent member having equal share in the profits or gains of the society. If need be, we must take help from the Forest and the Horticulture departments. Saplings of such trees are also available in their nurseries.
Agro-forestry needs to be promoted as an economic activity addressing soil health, water conservation,augmenting farmer income, biodiversity revival, sustainable and profitable environmentalism and ecological balance.
4. Wealth Inequality: There is a huge gap between the rich and poor when it comes to the distribution of wealth. The rich are getting richer and the poor are becoming poorer and the gap is widening further. The recent survey shows that the richest 1% of Indians owns 58.4% of the country’s total wealth, which is higher than the global figure of about 50%. The richest 10% of Indians owns over ¾th of wealth in India. In the latest study carried out by Oxfam, India’s 1% top richest bag 73% of the country’s wealth. When it comes to wealth distribution, India is the second mostunequal country in the world.Our people will rank at the bottom of this poor section of India’s population. What is the way out for our people!  Getting good quality education, proper utilisation our land and natural resources,creating opportunities, facilitating empowerment, adoption of scientific method of cultivation and farming, encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation and enhancing security are some of the things we must do in order to come out of poverty.Many of these rich people start their business/profession in small way and yet, they become rich because they are enterprising and work very hard diligently with high degree of dedication and perseverance.
5. Service Sector:
 If we look at our geographical location, natural and human resources, ecosystems, environment and socio-political conditions, our future economic development lies with service sector.We need educated English speaking population to develop and take our service sector to a level comparable with the best. Our educational institutions starting from primary school to university level must provide good quality education to our students. The quality of education should be such that the students are capable, competitive and employable. The service sector covering and including information technology, hospitality, tourism, transportation, media, entertainment, healthcare, education, markets, retails, professional services, etc. is the largest sector of the global economy in terms of value-added.Polluting heavy industries and manufacturing units are not environment friendly and are not suitable for our region. After careful planning and due diligence, we will undertakeour own mineral exploitations at the appropriate time in future.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and not of the Government of India.
The author is Principal Commissioner of INCOME Tax