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State of Education in Manipur

Locating the recent success of candidates from Manipur in the civil services examination in the larger context of the state's deteriorating education system, this article offers insights about a society which worships money and power and devalues education, knowledge and merit. It also discusses the disproportionate attention that big construction projects - which are equated with "development" - and security threats receive from the centre and the state leadership, at the expense of basic needs of the people.

FROM THE STATES
State of Education in Manipur N Somorendro Singh the government of Manipur in general, and about the educational scenario in particular. Due to the recruitment experiences in Manipur, the civil services examinations conducted by the UPSC are the best option

Locating the recent success of candidates from Manipur in the civil services examination in the larger context of the state’s deteriorating education system, this article offers insights about a society which worships money and power and devalues education, knowledge and merit. It also discusses the disproportionate attention that big construction projects – which are equated with “development”

– and security threats receive from the centre and the state leadership, at the expense of basic needs of the people.

N Somorendro Singh (somons@yahoo.com) teaches political science at Manipur College, Imphal.

T
he success of 12 candidates from Manipur in the Union Civil Services Examination 2010 conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) made headlines on the front pages of the local newspapers in May 2011. Consequently, photographs of the successful candidates with their brief biodata and congratulatory messages were separately published in the newspapers by local clubs or organisations. For the first time in a single year such a large number of candidates from Manipur have been successful in the national civil services examination, with Haulinalal Guite in the 33rd position. The first candidate from the state to be in the top 50 in the UPSC examination was R K Dinesh Singh, who secured the 11th rank in 1999.

Nature of Government Recruitment

This is a significant event considering the power of connection and money, and the irregularity and scandals that are characteristic of government recruitment, including the Manipur Civil Service examinations. The prices of government jobs in Manipur keep increasing, and this situation is worse than high inflation or any other crisis, as these processes and prices are “normal”. The estimated rates for various posts as discussed in private conversations range between Rs 3-4 lakh for a primary teacher, Rs 10-15 lakh for a sub-inspector/assistant SI of police, up to Rs 15 lakh for a supervisor (women and child welfare), and Rs 15-25 lakh (or even higher) for a state civil services post. Lucrative services/posts are valued much more, while merit, fairness, trust and integrity are not given importance. The system of government recruitment has very low credibility. Despite following the UPSC pattern in the last civil services examination conducted by the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC), those in the top 25 were largely from highly influential families. These events reflect a lot about the society, politics, economy and

June 4, 2011

for bright students. Of course, the power, prestige, status and money-generating capacity of the bureaucrats in Manipur’s powercentric and highly divided society could be other important considerations. Therefore it is not surprising that those who are successful in the UPSC examination are highly appreciated by the general public, and in fact honoured in Manipur. The financial assistance of Rs one lakh offered by the state government since last year to each of those who clear the preliminary examination seems to have had an impact on the huge success this year. Such monetary assistance may have encouraged those who do not have enough financial support.

The absence or failure of proper policy and action for quality education, especially higher education, still persists. The financial assistance of Rs one lakh only appears to be a populist measure and reflects the ad hoc nature of the government’s attitude towards education. All the successful candidates had their early education in Manipur but their higher studies and preparations have been outside Manipur. Many students from the state are studying and staying outside Manipur – mostly in Delhi – especially for preparing for the UPSC civil services examination. It is necessary to know some basic features of the geography, society, politics and government in Manipur to understand the educational scenario and future possibilities.

What Constitutes ‘Development’?

Bordering the military-ruled Myanmar, Manipur is a land of hill ranges, small streams, rivers, lakes and valleys. Manipur was an ancient kingdom and monarchy continued even during the British colonial rule (1891-1947) as the princely state was finally merged with India in 1949. The state is inhabited by over 40 communities who follow different religions including Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Four valley districts of Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal and Bishenpur surrounded by hill ranges, are inhabited by Meiteis (largely Hindus) who are numerically the largest community,

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Economic & Political Weekly

FROM THE STATES

followed by Manipuri Muslims (Pangals). The valley areas are also inhabited by Nagas, Kuki tribes and other communities. Centrally located with only about 10% of the total area, the valley accommodates about 70% of the population of the state. The five hill districts of Churachandpur, Chandel, Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong are inhabited by different tribes belonging to the Nagas and the Kukis-Chin-Zoumi who follow Christianity. These five hill districts form about 90% of the geographical area and their inhabitants constitute over 30% of the total population of over 27 lakh (2011 Census).

The major challenges in the state include the great political divides, the i nability to provide basic necessities like electricity and water, the dismal economic growth, the failure to create employment opportunities and non-existence of a just and capable government. Manipur being a conflict zone, thousands of security forces personnel and their large camps coexist with hundreds of cadres of over 25 armed groups creating uncertainty and fear among the people. About seven lakh educated youth out of a population of 27 lakh are unemployed at present. The maximum capacity of government employment is less than one lakh. Recruitment of state security personnel, including the notorious Police Commandos for which the centre provides funds liberally, takes place regularly while other recruitments are irregular and uncertain. The centre also provides funds for construction activities, which are aggressively propagated and practised as “development” by the government leadership.

The political leadership, especially the chief minister, takes great interest in inspecting big construction projects and “working hard” to ensure that such projects are completed on time. The inauguration of constructed markets, dams, and administrative buildings by the central leadership seem to seek more funds for more construction activities. For instance, Sonia Gandhi inaugurated three Ima Markets in Imphal and promised a few crores for the construction of more markets. The Home Minister P Chidambaram inaugurated the Mini Secretariat of the Ukhrul district in May 2011. Thus the centre appears to take keen interest and actively encourages the present practice of lifeless construction as “development”, ignoring education and other basic necessities of the people in the state. This approach to “development” proves to be highly lucrative for the ruling classes who certainly want to accelerate such processes in Manipur, given the lack of accountability and prevalence of the law of the jungle.

Driven by Money and Power

The only interventions by the government in the education sector are the construction or renovation of buildings of the government educational institutions, recruitment and posting/transfer of teachers. Little attention is paid to infrastructure and other essential needs and facilities in these institutions. Some of the government schools have very few or no students, as no care has been taken for so many years. The possible reasons for low attendance of college students could be the lack of modern facilities, or the belief that without money/connection, educational degrees will not secure them government jobs. They wish to follow “ideal models” – the rich and powerful – who are without good degrees and education. In such a scenario, the teaching profession and education in Manipur has deteriorated considerably, and teachers are soft targets for all, including government leaders who often blame them for poor standards of education. Ironically, the government leaders continue to recruit unsuitable teachers, and protect those teachers who do not perform their duties. This is the ground situation in a society which does not value education and knowledge, but worships money and power.

Out of 28 government colleges in the state, only about nine colleges are known to have regular attendance of students and teachers. The rest are largely without regular attendance but packed with students during admission and examination time. Government schools and colleges in the state were in maximum capacity around 15 years back. The removal of pre-university courses (Classes 11 and 12) from colleges without proper planning, adequate infrastructure and teachers in the late 1990s could be one of the reasons for the reversed scenario. Newly upgraded government-run higher secondary schools could not attract many students. Private higher secondary schools offering only science streams started flourishing in Manipur from 2000 onwards in every region. Students are forced to take up arts and humanities after passing Class 12 in science. Neglect by the government, disturbing social environment and f requent bandhs, general strikes, economic blockades, etc, have in recent times led to a mass exodus of students to outside of Manipur for studies right from lower classes. Some turn to private English medium schools whose numbers are on the rise in every nook and corner of Manipur. The response of the centre is swift in case of violence or threat to the security and “unity and integrity” of India. On matters concerning education and other basic needs, the attitude and response of the centre and the state are inadequate and counterproductive.

Manipur is one of the few states in the country which is yet to implement the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations of new pay scales for college teachers. Schoolteachers have often been imprisoned for demanding pay revisions under the Sixth Pay Commission. Education does not attract funds from the centre with the same enthusiasm as do big construction projects and security measures. The Indian Admini strative Service leadership in Manipur is ignorant about the national policy on education and new schemes by the University Grants Commission, and is vehemently against revising the pay scales of college teachers. Another example of the criminal neglect of higher education by the government has been its inability to appoint regular principals in government colleges for over two decades. The Directorate of Higher Education is headed by an IAS officer. No system or rule is followed in the appointment of in-charge principals of government colleges. In the hill districts, only the lecturers from the local community

– whether young or senior – are often forced to be appointed as in-charge principals.

Education, thus, has been devalued by the government leadership for several decades. Manipur is at present driven by the power of might, force, gun and money without the rule of law. There is scant regard for education and no respect for human rights and basic needs of the people. The Indian state, the ruling classes and civil society in Manipur must wake up to the need for valuing an education and knowledgebased society. All stakeholders need to put in collective efforts to bring about a new society based on justice, equal opportunities and welfare of all sections by focusing on education and human dignity.

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
June 4, 2011 vol xlvi no 23

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