Rising poverty in Manipur; the formidable challenge

Mohendro Nandeibam
Poverty is the burning challenge confronting the whole world. Poverty is the state of insufficient possession or income to meet one’s personal basic needs. Being poor, he cannot take good food and hence unhealthy. Because of poverty he cannot afford money for proper education and hence less educated. Conditioned by poverty, he lives in a hut, not a house and less hygienic. Isolated from mainstream of development, he feels marginalized and alienated. Daily struggle for a square meal a day is his life. He lives because he does not die. He is virtually not a ‘citizen’; he is a ‘subject’ being entangled by vast array of disabilities. It is really dehumanizing to be poor.
This category of population lacks human asset such as good health and skill, natural asset such as land, physical asset such as access to infrastructures, financial asset such as savings and credit and social asset such as social network of contact and political influence.
In a society like ours, these materially deprived people feel acute lack of voice, power and freedom. The abject circumstances of utter helplessness subject them to a culture of rudeness, a sense of humiliation and indifferent treatment. Most of them belong to informal and unorganised sector where benefits of both Rule and Role of Law are far and few between. Conditioned by prolonged stagnation, they have intrinsic tendency of acquiescence to frustration. They lack the spirit of positive reaction and determined assertion against burden of poverty. It is not easy to change this Culture of Poverty.
Generally, the poor are politically neglected, socially ignored and economically deprived. The three critical dimensions of poverty have a strong bearing on the speed, scale and strength of trajectory of growth. Hence Ending Poverty is much more than moral imperative; it is the cornerstone of development planning.
We cannot expect actual development without preparedness of people to sacrifice for development, political maturity, social co-operation and meticulous planning. How can we expect sacrifice and social co-operation from the poor people in a State like Manipur ? As such, preparedness of the people with decent livelihood without tears of poverty becomes crucial and equally critical. The strategy of Inclusive Growth has its origin in the rationale of alleviation of mass poverty. Remember, happy worker is productive worker.
How can we expect a new culture of admissible sacrifice of the poor people in straitened situation ? At best we can insist on noble acceptance of the painful change. In Manipur, perhaps, in the whole country the Link Man on the corridor of power and structure, is master-some kind of wooden bridge between people and Government. High literacy rate of 80% without high sense of Academic Citizenship and without committed attitude of social entrepreneurship could be at best an input for temporary appeasement. While right thinking is the ultimate asset of a Nation, the link men in the State get wild in the bubbles of temporary occasions and immediate concerns. The real purpose of Go-To-Village and Go-To-Hills can hardly be realized in the absence of link groups with commitment in domestic institutions. Follow up is extremely important. Continuity with consistency is the need of the hour. Mere performance at one point of time is not necessarily achievement.
To our surprise Manipur is experiencing increasing percentage of poverty from 33.78% of total population in 1994 to 36.89% in 2011-12 (Planning Commission). Of course, the performance of the State starts signaling better with 17.8% of Multi-Dimensional Index in 2021, while Kerala is practically free from incidence of poverty followed by Goa with only 4% and Sikkim also with 4% and Tamil Naidu with 5%. Till 2017 one-third of population lived below poverty line of Rs. 1018 per capita per month in rural area and Rs. 1470 in urban area.
Let us look at the lowest position of Manipur in the ranking of Good Governance in the country. Out of 29 States and Union Territories, Manipur is 27th with a score of 39 out of 100. The National average is 50.33. The highest score is 62.6 of Tamil Naidu (Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, Dec 25th 2021). The Good Governance Index 2021 covers 10 sectors and 58 indicators. The sectors are 1) Agriculture and Allied sector, 2) Commerce and Industries, 3) Human Resource Development 4) Public Health, 5) Public Infrastructure and Utilities, 6) Economic Governance, 7) Social Welfare and Development, 8) Judicial and Public Security, 9) Environment, and 10) Citizen Centric Government with a weightage of 10 each. One of the greatest mistakes of development administration in Manipur is virtual absence of road map for Actual Development which should speak of Greater Capability, Wide Range of Alternative Choice, Freedom to earn Betterment in Well Being. In fact, Manipur could not initiate a planned change in the desired direction. The state of the State economy is largely jobless and growthless. Time bound removal of mass poverty should now be most important agenda of all political parties in the State. We should not go without a clearly defined road map.
The writer is Chairman of Institute of Development Studies, Manipur