Need for paradigm shift: Reality write

Published on May 27, 2007

By Lunminthang Haokip

May 28: 2007: Paradigm-shift sounds a trifle vague in meaning to one who had not been familiar with using the term. But one who can take good advantage of its implication, may as well achieve something considered impossible earlier. It’s all about changing the set of rules we employ in conceiving or approaching things we do in life.

Areas that need paradigm shift: There’s a strong tendency to follow the herd. The best example in Manipur is the ‘mass birthday’ of the 1st march. Someone somewhere convinced someone else sometime about the blind adherence to the said norm the benefit of which had not been clearly spelt out till date. Yet, a sucker is born every minute, it’s said., and the mad trend continues. The issue was the talking point in one of the renowned Ministries of Delhi that received scores of applicants dates of birth of all of whom fell on the mysterious 1st march.


Another area that’s vital to the present and future families is education of the children. In every parent, there’s a lurking strong urge to see the children do well in studies by all means. Every sane head-of-family has some old scores to square with an offending boss or insulting colleague- real or imagined. There’s no better way to silence one’s detractors than doing so through the excelling of one’s kids in academics over those of the real or imagined competitors.


The cut-throat bids to outdo one another in school rankings had made enemies of jealous parents of top-rankers. They don’t even try to be civil to one another when they cross paths in their ways to rope in the best tutors who themselves, like movie stars, are working in several shifts. And to ensure that one’s offspring get taught in the top school in town, some mothers change schools at the rate they change their mobile sim-cards much to the confusion of the multi-uniformed student.


Lethargic Endorsement Of Status-Quo: It’s not easy to change something one got used to for a long time.  To use a new toothpaste or toilet soap requires a little struggle.  It’s even more difficult t come to terms with the clumsiness of a fresh domestic helper from the backblocks who needs months to adapt to certain ways of cooking or serving tea. So, human nature being what it is, we seek the easy way out; resisting the new by holding on fast to old systems.


It’s sad that we apply the easy-way-out mentality in our social and official outlooks and approaches. In the face of the endless chain of traffic on the wide street that divides the AG office and the State Secretariat buildings of Imphal, it’s almost suicidal to cross the road at peak hours. If major accidents had not occurred so far, it’s simply because the commuters had been lucky.


But how long will luck favour us? We’ve got to consider possible steering failures or the sanity of “the nut that holds the wheel”. For all our exposure to the outside world, why haven’t we thought of  making sub-ways or over-bridges  that will serve as an alternate link to the North Block and Babupara link-lanes?


Bureaucracy: Manipur, we must admit, had and has brilliant bureaucrats at the helm of affairs. The top functionaries of almost every department is driven by the zeal  and zest to perform and yield results. The bold initiative of Technocracy had already cleansed the Mgel in the face of initial skepticism.


Thanks to the administrative skills instilled deep in the highest Training Academies, the premier cadre had always been the saving grace in our otherwise turbulent and beleaguered state where norms are pulled in different directions. However, the valuable inputs put in by some of the middle-level functionaries of the state-cadre, who on their part, are lesser in efficiency to none, had also helped the survival of the Bureaucracy a great deal.


We have reason to feel proud that one of the two Secretaries to the PM was the MD of MANITRON and even the SDO of  Nungba once. BVR Subramaniam of 1987 MT cadre changed his cadre later. Friends and colleagues were equally amazed by his super brilliance and humility. Immediately after his probation period, Subramaniam completed an MBA course in a prestigious London college where he survived a grueling test of brain and grit among a thousand students that included the scion of the Birla empire till the last round like they do in Celebrity Big Brother.


His brief stint in Manitron, more than a decade back, made the Industrial unit boom and the then MD gifted a 6 figure cheque to the then CM’s relief fund. Subu, as he was endearingly called, was even predicted by an astrologer that he would one day become the Prez of India. The future will tell. Will it be a success story of “From BDO to PMO to RB?”


Misleading status-quo-ism in parts of the rank and file of the otherwise well-managed bureaucracy of this unique state refuses to give way to better ideas and methods. Let’s look at the bigger picture of having a economically thriving state  devoid of the pitfalls that keep us from  peaking in performance. We have to choose our destiny. Do we want a strong Australian- type governance or a clean Singapore – type  or a not-so-good Phillipines-type administration?


A paradigm shift at the key and lower–levels is highly called for. We have the potential to deliver. But we lack the dogged determination to sacrifice for the common good. Whose state is it anyway? It’s ours. The bottom line belonged to the witty Late L.S. Thangjom, retd. Commissioner, who once bluntly told his diffident Under Secretary, “ Brother, you are too much of an Under and too little of a Secretary, assert yourself a little more”. Let us also keep in mind that the reverse is neither good for administrative health.


Land System: Agreed that we  hill-people have reasons to resist the absolute extension of MLR & LR Act in the hill areas. Also agreed that extension of the Municipal Act had been opposed in the high lands. Now that the unofficial price of prime land per sq. foot in downtown Imphal had crossed the Rs. 5000/- mark, the price the same fetches in its counterpart localities in hill areas is chicken feed.


Just for the absence of a Legislative decision, and even after amendment of the relevant portion of District Council Act, the hill areas are denied urban infrastructural or municipal developmental schemes due to our own differences in perception. If desire isn’t to lag behind, why should we continue to be indifferent to the indirect devaluation of nine-tenth of the state’s land just for the lack of a statutory booklet or two?


Within the frame-work of the Constitutional safeguards, we can make more Acts that take better care of tribal interests without stamping upon the hyper-sensitive issues of contemporary politics. An expert team may be commissioned  to study land systems in Red Indian regions of USA or Uttarkhand or Jharkhand or other N.E.Indian states.


My tribal emotions on other common issues remaining the same, I feel it will be helpful to the pace of progress if initiatives are taken towards enactment of something like “Hill Areas LR & LR Act”  or “Hill Areas Municipality Act” that takes into consideration the age-old land-use systems and traditions of our major communities. Municipality is nothing but Local Self Government. In the absence of a suitable Act to be applied, the administrator is ill-equipped even to settle village land disputes.


Successful Paradigm Shifts: In the recent past, the erstwhile colourful celebration of Yaoshang (Holi) had been converted into local sports events. Our state had improved its medal haul in the national and international games and sports meets ever since. We all feel proud when our athletes stand tall on the victory-stands. Sports certainly is the silver-lining in our cloudy horizon and the delivering grace for our disgraced state.


But here too, a further paradigm shift in time can tighten the loose screws of the land’s emotional unity. A shift in attitude in offering equitable opportunities  in sports to all with potential is desired. Given the chance, there’s no reason why the region or genes akin to that of Mary Kom shouldn’t produce some more champs or bring more feathers to the state’s cap.


Another case of successful paradigm shift is Lanthumching’s  Shija Hospital. Before the imposing and beautifully designed building came up, the soil of the land was not good enough to hold a two-storey structure together. Hats off to Dr. Palin who tried every means to realize his dream project through 150 ft. deep pile- foundations etc., today the fruits of his hard labour not only benefit patients NE-wide but also create a mini township with a sustainable market activity around its premises. The sixth sense to foresee what others couldn’t had paid rich dividends. I am happy that the hospital is employing so many people – part time and full time.


None Poor In Singapore: In the fifties and early sixties, Singapore had nothing much to boast of. Malaysia and Indonesia tightened the commercial noose  around the tiny island-nation due to the non-compromising stands of its distinguished leader, Lee Kuan Yew. Undaunted by the sanctions and embargoes coming from the earlier friendly neighbours , that drove him against the wall, Lee Kuan stuck to his guns. He mobilized  and utilized whatever resources  the water-logged island had at its disposal to unbelievable advantage. The primary thrust-areas of the island-country’s priorities were derived from the initials of their able leader’s first name, LEE – LAW, EDUCATION and EMPLOYMENT.


Implementing his beliefs with a zeal that rivaled the Spirit of a pioneer missionary, Lee had  turned the poor island into a first-world city marveled alike by the East and the West. Today, the sea waters of Singapore have six hundred commercial ships anchored to its shores every day and a ship arriving and departing every 3 minutes. And each ship is paying a fee of not less than US Dollar 600. In 2006, each Singaporean family received 24,000 Dollars from the government as the surplus money earned after meeting the target for 2004-05.


That’s an exemplary paradigm shift we in this state need to seriously ponder over and convert into action today. Setbacks around us shouldn’t stop us from dreaming big. Thinking hundreds of years ahead, in the interest of handing the legacy to a saner posterity,  we must begin to envision, plan and acquire skill to build a new Manipur. We have an above–average technical mind-set and speak better English than the average South East Asian. What we lack is a sustained attitude towards change and paradigm-shift for the better.


The author is Additional Deputy Commissioner under the government of Manipur, a Northeast state in India.