Prohibition free after 31 years Now focus on ST demand

After 31 years, Manipur is ‘prohibition free’. The Sangai Express has already had its say on whether the prohibition tag, which adorned Manipur for over 31 years, really helped or not and now one can expect the pro-prohibition lobby to come out in full throttle against the move of the Government. One only hopes that such a stand stays within the orbit of ‘productive debates’ and not get reduced to an exercise in lung power or ‘verbal street fighting’ or plain arguments. And neither side should ‘expect’  the people to fall in line with their stand and only then would it give sense to the understanding of having different opinions on a matter. This apart, now with prohibition lifted after three decades, one can expect a number of well ‘connected’ folks to line up  and try to ‘butter’ the people who matter to get the license to sell Indian Made Foreign Liquor. How about those who already had the license before prohibition was enforced in 1991 ? Only time will tell how the license is awarded but the point is, there will be a whole set of exercise to be taken up now that liquor can be sold legally. One can also expect some of the more enterprising folks to stake their claim with the more well known local brew such as Sekmai, Andro, Phayeng etc and it would be interesting to see how the ‘enterprising’ lot present their case with new packages of the local product, which if marketed well can find a loyal customer base outside Manipur. Another sure shot way of bringing in the much needed revenue. Lifting prohibition should also go hand in hand with any plan to sell Manipur as a tourist destination to the global travellers. The Government must have given their thoughts along this line, and one hopes that suggestions from private players are given due importance. There are already established players in the field of hospitality but the Government would do well to hear and digest the viewpoints from the younger lot, who may come with bright and innovative ideas on how to hard sell Manipur to the outside world. Opening up, this is the bottomline and lifting prohibition could be just one of the added bonuses. A team from the State Government is understood to have already visited Goa in the recent past to study how it manages to attract tourists and here it would help all that more if the model from neighbouring States like Sikkim and even Meghalaya are taken into consideration. Lifting prohibition should be seen beyond the revenue that can be earned from sale of whisky or rum or gin, but also on how it can help the tourism sector, which means not only bringing in the much needed hard cash but can also provide employment opportunities to many youngsters of Manipur.
A tough and bold decision the BJP led Government at Imphal has taken and this is acknowledged. One hopes the same resoluteness is taken with regard to the point raised by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee, Manipur (STDCM) and the World Meetei Council (WMC) that recommendations be sent to New Delhi to include Meeteis/Meiteis in the ST list of the Constitution of India. The Government must be clear on certain points here. It is not Imphal which will decide whether the Meeteis/Meiteis fit the bill to be categorised as an ST but the Centre. However what is needed is that a recommendation or a report on the socio-economic survey and ethnographic report by an organisation of repute need to be sent to Centre. It is not Imphal which will have the final say, but the Centre and one wonders what is stopping the Government of Manipur from forwarding such a report. Or if it is not amenable to idea of sending such a proposal, then it should be spelt out and the reasons for it need to be spelt out too. It was not for nothing why the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs had sent a written communication to the State Government back in 2013 to submit the needed recommendations for considering that Meeteis/Meiteis be included in the ST list of the Constitution of India. A definite stand has been taken on prohibition and perhaps now is the time to focus on the ST demand for the Meeteis/Meiteis.