Optimism Defeats Blockade
Twenty-two-year-old Abem Golmei, a nursing student from Malom, 7 km from state capital Imphal, was aghast when a national daily last month called Manipur a failed state. Sure, a 92- day- long blockade of the two national highways connecting the state to the rest of India had brought the state to a standstill. Commodity prices soared, scarcity of fuel threw the transportation system out of gear and hospitals ran terribly short of medicines. Worse still, neither the state nor the Central Government acted promptly to end the blockade. In June 2010 too, the state suffered a similar month-long highway blockade.
Yet, Golmei is not ready to give up and accept her state as having failed. “I know the press loves bad stories, yet the state has seen so many good things in the last year. I find Manipur much more peaceful than it was two years ago. At the very least, fake encounters don’t make headlines these days,” she says.
Golmei is not a solitary voice. Though there has been a widespread acceptance that the state government has failed to provide a political solution to most of the problems plaguing the state, the law and order situation has improved in the last one year. Security forces and state police in Manipur, a state still under the grip of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, compelled various militant groups to either surrender or seek refuge in neighbouring countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh. The arrests of top insurgent leaders such as United National Liberation Front chief Rajkumar Meghen have resulted in a sharp decline in terror attacks.
The state police’s numbers have been beefed up to 10,249 in 2010, as compared to 8,541 in 2009 and 5,502 in 2008. The National Crime Records Bureau’s Crime in India 2010 report released in October shows that cases of cognisable crime are decreasing, from 3,349 in 2008 to 2,852 in 2009 to 2,715 in 2010.
The silent force behind this substantial reduction in cognisable crimes is the state’s Director General of Police Y. Joykumar Singh, who has been meticulously working on an overhaul of the state police force.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, who also happens to be the home minister, is, however, deeply concerned about the chaos created by bandhs, blockades, general strikes, dharnas and rallies called by various organisations. “Force is not the answer to problems. The government is open to dialogue with any group for any problem,” he says.