Better not Arundhati

11 Sep

It is great news that Booker Prize winning writer Arundhati Roy will be visiting the state in November this year. However, we wish she had much rather come for some event like inaugurating a book fair or giving a inspiring lecture to our college students or writers here in Manipur. The timing and the purpose of her visit has left much to be desired and may be quite disappointing for some section of the people who admire her writings, or have at least heard of her as a well known writer. Very very few people in Manipur today are not swayed by the overwhelming tide of what we may call Manipur’s own brand of nationalism. We in fact have nothing against this nationalistic fervor if it is cordial, decent, and compassionate towards the aspirations of all the people of the state. However, the popular nationalism as we see it here is dictatorial, threatening and overrides democratic or even human values. It is this backdrop, of a mass preoccupation with and support for a violent nationalism, in which we would like Arundhati Roy and other eminent personalities to view the now so famous ‘struggle’ by Irom Sharmila against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. As outsiders who know very little about Manipur, people generally tend to look at the Manipuri woman’s hunger strike for the sake of the statistics involved, and not the deep rooted implications behind such a strike. Living in today’s consumerist age as long as the scales are tipping higher everyone tends to applaud, whatever the cause may be. And in Sharmila’s case too most people are just watching the scoreboard like in a game of cricket. But in doing so they are inadvertently harming the country’s interests, Manipur’s interests and also democratic values. This is because in appreciating Irom Sharmila we become party to the numberless Manipuris who have almost literally taken a vow to stand against the Indian polity. It has been accepted that the AFSPA has many loopholes, but like any other law it takes time to change or alter it, especially so when a near full scale war is on here and the country as a whole must be thinking of giving our men in the forces the best advantage in a territory which is hostile in every sense.

We don’t say Sharmila is representative of the anti-Indian people here. Her struggle could be (or could not be) only against the legal side of the AFSPA, but there are scores and scores of others who have now become part of her agitation for an altogether different cause, viz. to fight till the end for a separate country which has nothing to do with India. And this is where we think personalities like Arundhati Roy should reconsider or at least make known their views on a struggle like this, before they arrive in Manipur. Recently we have come to hear of even politicians like Mamata Banerjee speaking up for the Maoists. Likewise there are some others also who support the violent struggles by impoverished people in Orissa, West Bengal, Jharkhand etc. As outside observers we cannot support the armed part of it, but as human beings we do sympathize with the plight of the poverty belts where suicides due to droughts, starvation, and deprivation are becoming commonplace. The elitist ruling class also has to start thinking about its own exploitative business policies, to prove that they too are sensitive to human values. Well, this is another matter. But, what we are hoping is that in their enthusiasm and concern for the downtrodden people of India, people like Arundhati Roy and others do not start equating the separatist problem in Manipur with the problem of exploitation in India’s poverty struck areas. Manipur has some of the most fertile lands in the whole of the country and people here are proud that they can go years on end without help from anyone else. So while the impoverished masses in many parts of India are getting restless and violent to make their cry for food and drink heard, in the case of Manipur we can only say that people have enough food here but are crying for blood – an altogether different proposition.

Most of the dominant community in Manipur is not willing to look at any of their co-inhabitants here eye to eye, so much is their disregard for others. The anti-AFSPA brigade is also mostly representative of a people who would not listen to anybody but themselves and is almost racially motivated. Hence this would be the last platform from which we would like our Indian intelligentsia to address the problems here, as their good wishes is being interpreted and projected by some people here as a sign of weakness, or quite foolishly as an approval of the violence in the Manipuri mind. The problem is so acute that many of the hardworking businessmen from the Indian mainland who are traditionally doing business here are being forced to leave after selling their business and properties dirt cheap by the dominant Manipuri community under the naïve belief that usurping somebody’s hard earned position is the way to do business. We can only say that fighting for rights while denying the same rights to those who are dependent on Manipur for some reason or the other is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Kashmir and Northeast

10 Sep

The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA, is now right back in focus following a strong push from Kashmir in the wake of the unprecedented and sustained mass street uprising in Srinagar and much of the rest of the Kashmir valley. Although the recommendation for the Act’s amendment or else repeal has not met any consensus amongst a cross section of the main Indian political parties, and is met with strong opposition from the Indian Army to any change to it, indications are the Disturbed Area Act, DAA, would be removed from four districts of the troubled state. It may be recalled the AFSPA is applicable only in areas declared as disturbed under the DAA and hence removal of the latter from any area would automatically result in the withdrawal of the AFSPA from the area. But the question that beggars an answer remains, is this gesture from New Delhi too little, and perhaps too late too. The violent street protests still have not subsided. Even if there have been spells of calm, there is no gainsaying these were very tense calm. The apt analogy for this calm would be the calm of a volcano. No immediate violence but plenty of violence potential at the slightest provocation.

In any case New Delhi’s possible Eid offer is being watched with much anticipation. At this moment, this is not so much a question of whether this is a good enough offer in the long run. On the other hand, the suspense is about whether this Eid gift would be able to quell the current orgy of street violence which has already claimed 60 lives. There can be no doubt about it that this is a throwback on what happened in the Imphal Valley in July of 2004 after the killing of Thangjam Manorama in custody by the Assam Rifles. The explosion of street violence after the outrageous murder also had put a big question mark on the AFSPA then and resulted ultimately not only in the withdrawal of the DAA from around the Greater Imphal area constituting of seven Assembly constituencies, but also ultimately the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, calling for a revisit of the AFSPA. He called for an enquiry commission to look into the AFSPA, and the commission had indeed recommended some radical changes to Act (although many have contested these were mere cosmetic). It would also do well to recall the street protests ended not on the withdrawal of the disturbed area act alone, but also the promise of a review and possible overhaul of the AFSPA backing it up. The suggestion is, the withdrawal of the AFSPA from four districts would not be enough. It would have to be backed up with a more far reaching promise as in the case of Manipur. Indeed, chief minister, Omar Abdullah, is pushing for such a promise from the Centre.

But the Kashmir situation is different from that of the Northeast on many counts. In the Manipur experience of July 2004 for instance, it was not primarily an anti-India sentiment but an anti-AFSPA feeling that drove the protests. Even today, the epic hunger strike protest against the AFSPA by Irom Sharmila, which is less than 100 days from completing a decade, is remarkable for the fact that it is not driven by nationalistic passions. This should also explain why the appeal of her protest is so universal. Nationalistic leaders do not get nominations for Nobel Peace Prize, or even win other lesser, but all the same prestigious international awards for human rights as Sharmila has. By comparison, the street protests in Kashmir are much more hardcore anti-India. The bitterness quite obviously runs deep and is widespread, touching the soul of practically everybody in the Kashmir Valley, including ordinary men, women and children. In fact, many intellectuals participating in various Satellite TV panel discussions have even suggested the AFSPA should no longer be made to bind the Northeast and Kashmir. The problems in these two regions are today very different in intensity as well as in content. This probably is not without merit. When the government decided to shelve the recommendations of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission for the remoulding of the AFSPA, it probably had less of Northeast and more of Kashmir in mind. As to whether these suggestions are taken seriously will be seen in the days ahead. For the moment, everybody is watching intently what the shape of the Centre’s Eid offer would be, and more importantly if the offer would make any tangible difference to the situation on the burning streets of Kashmir.

To be Pragmatic

9 Sep

There is a lot of similarity between the outlooks of most established religions (if not all the religions) and the ideology of historical and dialectical materialism, of which we know Marxism is the most prominent. Both are deterministic and believe in the linear progression of time and history. Because this is so, they are also by nature prescriptive. To some extent, there is an inevitability about this. All ideologies and religions must have a common objective of bringing order to the essential chaos of the universe. It is interesting that even the great Albert Einstein was known to have exclaimed in exasperation while working on his geodesic model of the universe that “God did not play dice with the universe”. Everybody wants to believe the universe is not without any purpose or meaning, and that it is simply a neutral phenomenon. Quite obviously, it is also easier for theists to explain this purpose, for they can simply attribute grand meaning to the will of the Supernatural Creator, but even the die-hard agnostics are seemingly unable to absorb the idea of a value neutral universe without any underlying meaning, which is why they too have resorted to ideologies to give it meaning, just as the Marxists have.

While this human compulsion to give a personalised meaning to life is understandable, it must be acknowledged this can also get extremely dogmatic, resulting in straitjacketing of all visions of life and its meanings. This is troublesome because it would rob life of the freedom of individual choices. Some religions and ideologies more than others are guilty of this, for the indoctrinated beliefs they advocate, insist the predictability of not just individual life but also of society and indeed humankind. Almost uncannily, all such (dogmatic) religions and ideologies, also have in unmistakably ways found life and history to be about the struggle between the good and bad. Consequently their teachings also invariably predict the ultimate victory of what they believe are the good over the evil, or in the familiar jargon of the agnostic “religions”, the victory of the progressive and the historically correct visions. Surrendered in the process is the freedom to periodically question the supposed infallibility of one’s own beliefs and convictions. He trouble is, without this freedom, the individual would also lose the ability to correct vision and therefore also his course of action. If he (or she) for instance were to be barking up the wrong tree, he would continue to do so until it is too late to salvage himself from pursuing what may ultimately prove to be unachievable, if not an abject untruth.

Such tragedies are not altogether uncommon, precisely because dogmatism both in religion and ideology is no stranger in this world. Capturing these situations and illustrating these foibles of humanity, of course make for very endearing literature. Orhan Pamuk for instance rather humorously but penetratingly describes such a gulf between human longing and reality as the fate of a “luckless soul, looking West from a ship headed East”. The direction of the gaze of the luckless soul or that of the course of the ship he is on could very well have been just the opposite, but the important point is to be able to introspect and realise the fallacy. We bring this up in the belief that amidst all the rhetoric and proclamations of ideological infallibility by so many in so many different situations, Manipur, and indeed the entire northeast region, may have become blinded to their own shortcoming in the regard. The question that we must never shy from asking ourselves is, have we overlooked the need to realign our political and ideological visions? Or more precisely, have we ended up as the luckless soul looking longingly at the horizon from a ship headed directly in the opposite direction? These are important introspective questions which can prevent tragedies, or at the least, lessen unnecessary and prolonged agony of being caught with the heart and mind longing for two different and incompatible things. It is not too late yet to begin. The self questioning must be initiated by the region’s enlightened intelligentsia. The universities, theatres, cinema, media etc, are the appropriate forums for this drama of the microcosm to take shape. The frustrating experience has been for this intellectual leadership to either fail or else abdicate their responsibility, and the space meant for them to be usurped by lumpen politics and thoughts. Or is it a case of this intelligentsia still failing in the struggle to grow out of its infancy?

Only skeletal services at Ukhrul hospital

9 Sep

From John K Kaping
UKHRUL, Sep 8: The Ukhrul District Hospital inaugurated in the year 1976 exists in a pathetic state although it is supposed to cater to the needs of the whole Ukhrul population of more than 1,40,000 people coming for treatment from across nearly 300 villages.

The hospital runs without power supply and there is acute shortage of doctors and other medical practitioners. The real functioning and existence of the hospital came to light when a group of mediapersons and the Ukhrul District Journalists’ Association (UDJA) interacted with some reliable officials in the department recently on condition of anonymity.

The source disclosed that the only government-run Ukhrul District Hospital runs without electricity most of the time as the irregularity of power supply is known by one and all like businesses, NGOs, institutions, government offices etc. which do not rely on the Ukhrul electricity which keeps the whole district or town in darkness. The only option left is to use inverter device and small generators that have the capacity to provide power for only one bulb for about four hours. The generator meant for the Ukhrul Hospital is still kept unused since 2007-08, the source said.

The Official sources also disclosed that there is no specialist doctor for Gynae, Ortho, Radiology and ENT. The hospital has 16 posts against the actual sanction posts of 29 staff nurses, and there is no sanctioned post of five nursing sisters. Two senior MOs are also needed but as of now there are none. The MO (juniors) is only three against the actual district sanction posts of eight. There is no steward in Ukhrul hospital and one Medical Record Technician required at the hospital is not given.

One of the most important hospital facilities i.e. Blood Bank is not functional owing to sub-standard infrastructures. The official source disclosed that the matron in the hospital has never attended office since April last and the Dental Surgeon is seen only on weekends.

As for Anesthesia Department there is no surgeon and the line office cannot function in the hospital. On the side of the Lab. Technician out of four sanctioned posts two are utilized at Imphal JNIMS along with the Lab. Assistant. The Central Sterilization Room Technician is also to be taken away from Ukhrul Hospital.

Two LDCs are required in the hospital office. There are two Ambulance Light Cargo Drivers and only one old man is handling the job overtime, the official sources asserted.

Typing our URL is as simple as ABC

9 Sep

It’s always good to learn new things in our life, discovered lately that search engines treat the website urls differently if you type http://kanglanonline.com

or

http://www.kanglaonline.com 

We recently fixed this issue by doing a 301 redirect which is very useful for your sites page ranking and how search engines index your sites.

# To redirect all users to access the site WITHOUT the www. prefix,
# (http://www.kanglaonline.com/… will be redirected to http://kanglaonline.com/…)
# adapt and uncomment the following:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.kanglaonline\.com$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://kanglaonline.com/$1 [L,R=301]

With this is in place all you need to do is open your browser and type kanglaonline.com in your browser without bothering whether to put www or not, rest will be taken care by your browser and kanglaonline

Happy browsing!!!

Cleaning the Filth Within

8 Sep

In recent years there have been few news items that came as music to the ears than “the zero garbage campaign” launched by the Imphal Municipal Council. Understandably, many social organisations of repute are pitching in their effort towards the campaign too. For the past many years, Imphal was beginning to look like a city which was abjectly failing among others in managing its own waste, and in the process was coming to be buried in filth. Quite outrageously, Imphal was being forced to get used to the indignity of encountering the ugly putridity of garbage piling up at practically every corner of the city, in the busy bazaar areas, as well as quite surprisingly, in residential colonies (leikais). Once upon a time, residents of Imphal, and indeed the entire state, were extremely conscious of personal hygiene, and would take pains every morning to sweep not just their homes and courtyards, but also public spaces adjacent to their residences, such as the stretches of the streets immediately outside their homes. The sight of faeces and dead animals etc on the road, when one was embarking on the day’s work or important appointment, were considered bad omen, and it was taken for granted that the responsibility was of everybody to ensure that these did not happen to anybody. To be negligent on these matters was looked down upon as bad civic sense.

As a demonstration of this collective community sense of sociability, it was once common sight to see these leikais periodically choose relatively free days such as public holidays, for everybody in the locality to come out and clean their immediate living environment together with great fanfare and commitment. Such activities were quite exuberantly but appropriately referred to as “social service”. One important day, and a popular one at that, for such “social service” was on Gandhi Jayanti, on October 2, in honour of the great soul by the name. Today these voluntary community services are distant memories at best. This is partly because of the phenomenal acceleration in the pace of life in the last few decades, but more than this, it is also symptomatic of a decay of moral and social ethos within the individual citizen. The society has today become extremely inward looking and predictably this has been at the neglect of tangible social fabrics of the past that not only bound communities together, but also kept it healthy as a collective. The vacuum thus left by the fading of a traditional sense of “social service” should have been filled up by the new notion of official governmental “public service”, but sadly the transition has been disastrous. A lost ageing tradition crippled the society but its new modern replacement lacked the will or commitment to carry on the mission. The result is indignity of garbage piling up everywhere. Practically nobody today has any qualm about littering in public places in the false belief that public health and public hygiene are not their responsibility but of the government. The government department meant to keep these spaces clean also remain caught in the equally false belief that the government is there to ensure them their salaries and perks alone, and their performing the public responsibilities they are given, is secondary.

The biggest challenge before the “zero garbage campaign” in Imphal, commendable as it is, will have to be the resurrection of a new avatar of the old culture in which all citizen shared responsibility and commitment towards the upkeep of their living environment, and at the same time the streamlining of government work culture and employees’ attitude to wage, to make them truly imbibe what is contained in the popular epithet “equal pay for equal work and no pay for no work” defining any public service. The project must be grounded on the reality that it can only be accomplished by the joint effort of public and government. For this, public awareness must be raised till it comes to the realisation that it is an enlightened outlook to believe promoting public good is, in the ultimate analysis, promoting self interest. The public must once again introspect on the virtues of the sense of community and community health that it once so proudly upheld, and then marry this with the modern culture of public service by public servants. The public servants themselves must swallow the truth that in this new paradigm, they are worthy to be called public servants and paid from public exchequer only if they perform the public services they are given the responsibility, with accountably and commitment.

Govt and Environment

7 Sep

No prizes for guessing. Much before the globalisation of the world economy, globalisation has never been evitable in another field – ecology. Ecological degradation in any part of the world affects climate patterns the world over. And nobody will doubt today that the climate everywhere is changing and is becoming significantly unpredictable. The devastating floods in Pakistan, the nightmarish mudslides in parts of China and India this year are just some examples. Even in Manipur, the changes have been not just visible, but radical. Winters are harsher and so are summers much hotter. Two decades ago, even using a fan during the day in summer was seen as extravagant except on certain “extraordinarily” hot days when the mercury rises close to 30 degrees Celsius. At other times, it was not really necessary. Today, it is becoming necessary to leave ceiling fans on even at night to make sleep comfortable. Similarly air-conditioning offices and offices would have been considered an opulent exercise, but today it is becoming more and more a necessary accessory for comfortable living. It is not winter yet and memories of past winters would have faded considerably, however even vague recalls would make nobody dispute that winter too are becoming all the more biting. Especially for the poor, winters are increasingly a glimpse into what hell might actually feel like, much more than summers.

This brings us to the point that everybody, even those of us in tiny Manipur, must take our immediate ecology seriously. As in the Union cabinet, we would have appreciated if the state too were to have a cabinet ranked ministry for environment. The fact Manipur still does not, probably is a reflection of the government’s lack on seriousness in being part of the global ecological campaign. Hence, maybe not on paper, but definitely in reality, logging still continues in a big way. Not only are the saw mills everywhere in the state proofs, but those who travel along the national highways leading out of the state would still encounter truckloads of timber making their way out, despite a Supreme Court ruling banning logging. The usual excuse is, these timbers come from the Myanmarese side of the border and not from within Indian territory. Even if this were true, from the point of view of ecological preservation, it is still a lame argument. It does not matter where the deforestation is happening, climate change has no boundary. And Myanmar, is not anywhere on the globe. It is next door. It is true we still need timber for all our construction works, and until a viable replacement is found, some extraction will have to continue, but it is time the government started evolving a strategy to ensure this is not only regulated, but also to the extent possible, recycled effectively. Even if it is not equipped to handle this problem yet, it must nonetheless show earnestness to deal with what is today recognized as a global challenge. The environmental slogan, “think globally act locally”, must now be invoked and translated into action without any further delay. Disasters are visiting other parts of the world today, and God forbid it, tomorrow it could be landing on us too.

Disaster can take many visages. Among the most popular and terrifying predictions are, the sea level rising, either inundating coastal areas or salinating them to render them unfit for agriculture, in the process driving populations further inland, thus causing immense and lasting humanitarian crises. For the northeast region, which is already seeing an unprecedented demographic upset because of unmitigated economic migrations from impoverished Bangladesh, this can have alarming consequences. Disaster can also be in the shape of natural inland catastrophes, such as flooding in river basins and massive landslips in the mountains, as is being reported from China, Pakistan and indeed Ladhak in India. Manipur, in particular the valley, can be very prone flooding. The hills too can see worse landslides than is already accustomed to. The valley was believed to be once underwater, and evidences of this are there in the numerous wetlands through the length and breadth of the valley. Excessive rain in any year, say double of what it normally receives, can again easily inundate large areas of it, and the trapped water would not easily clear, for rivers draining water away from the valley are limited. But much more profoundly, an ecological upset can cause the disappearances (through migration or extermination) of seemingly insignificant insects which are agents for pollination of important cash and food crops. Can the government and the people then remain unconcerned?