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The Transcendental Role Of Women In Manipur History

Dr. M. C. Arunkumar & Irengbam Arun

Related Notes of Interest while on this topic

5. Negative Values of Estimated Female Disadvantage: Manipur

In the context of current gender disadvantages as in Muzzaffarnagar, U. P., Northern India (where according to a PTI news item date-lined August 19, 2005 reads: 'Husbands campaign for veiled wives in poll fray') it is felt impulsive to entail some important results of estimation of Female Disadvantage (FD) in the districts of Manipur based on Infant and Child Mortality Estimates: Manipur 1998: vide Census of India: 1991, Occasional Paper No. 5 of 1998: Demography Division: Registrar-General, India. The said news item focuses on the modus operandi of the pardanashin females of the northern Indian society to be canvassed by their husbands or their sons in the name of the anonymous candidate, by even using not the candidate's photo but those of her cohorts:

"Most of the female candidates Hindu or Muslim, contesting on seats reserved for women, have appointed their husbands and other family members to canvass for them while they stay put in the confines of their homes."

" Others have published advertisements in regional papers or made banners with photos of their husbands to identify themselves as candidates."

"The voters are expected to know the candidates from the name of their husbands or other male members of her family where the appearance of the actual candidate is not known."

"According to official sources, out of the 20 lakh candidates for Gram Pradhans and Panchayet member elections in the State, about seven lakh are women. In Muzzaffarnagar alone, out of 657 seats for Gram Pradhans, 368 are reserved for women."

Now against these pardanashin women out to access political space in UP, the Manipuri women would show quite a few notches above. Female child mortality as per 1988-based official estimates has been the lowest in Manipur at 50: at one-third of the All India level (157 per thousand); or less than one-quarter of the highest of 213 in Arunachal Pradesh, and the next highest 208 in Uttar Pradesh. Such female child mortality as between State rural and urban segments would however show substantially wide variations at all stages viz. Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q5 or mortality from birth to age 1; from birth to age 2; from birth to age 3; and from birth to age 5; respectively. At the risk of repetition, it need be said that at 50 the estimated female child mortality of Manipur was the lowest among all the States and the Union Territories of the country. The other next lowest were Chandigarh (74); Kerala (76), Goa, Daman & Diu (81); and both Delhi & Mizoram bracketed (99). At the other extreme are Arunachal Pradesh (213); Uttar Pradesh (208); Madhya Pradesh (201); Orissa (176); and Lakshadweep (175).

Districtwise, Churachandpur would show the lowest female child mortality in both urban and rural segments not only in terms of Q1, Q2, Q3, but also in terms of Q5 over Chandel, and even over valley districts. On the whole, female mortality/expectancy to live beyond 5 years of age has been 40 higher than that of male child at the State level at 42 in the rural setting. However in rural setting the female disadvantage would be much less marked at 43 against 44. This noteworthy feature (negative disadvantage or positive advantage) seems true mainly because of the large female advantage (FA) shown in the rural setting in all the valley districts. The FD in case of hill districts and urban segments in valley districts are quite disconcertingly positive, calling for remedial measures to be finalized on further scrutiny for possible causality by means of Granger Causality Test.

Some informal analysis made thereon has arrived at the following very interesting result. FD, expressed as percentage, has been tabulated for all the districts by concentrating on rural segments, and then shown in table below. The negative FD values in case of State at (-) 5.0 indicates positive advantage, shared also by Imphal East/Imphal West, Bishnupur, Chandel and Thoubal. However the greatest disadvantage is reflected by the positive FD values for Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Churachandpur and Senapati districts of Manipur.

Table 12-1: Districtwise Child Mortality & Gender-Biased Variables ; Manipur: 1991

Districts Intercensal Female Urbanization Female Poverty

Growth Rate Literacy as % to total Disadvantage * Indices**

(% annual) population
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
1. Senapati 3.41 36.13 0 5.36 21.57
2. Tamenglong 3.85 39.68 0 7.14 55.10
3. Churachandpur 3.07 49.30 19.11 6.25 51.78
4. Chandel 2.58 34.80 13.62 (-) 9.43 64.07
5. Thoubal 2.68 36.31 36.55 (-) 7.50 42.02
6. Bishnupur 2.81 41.13 34.94 (-)10.34 38.01
7/8.Imphal East/I.W. 2.79 58.06 39.82 (-)15.79 48.87
9. Ukhrul 3.17 51.57 0 13.46 52.28
MANIPUR 2.92 47.60 27.52 (-) 5.00 45.06
Mean 3.05 43.47 28.8 (-) 1.36 46.71
S. D. 0.40 8.00 10 9.92 12.06

Col. No. 2: Computed from official statistics;
Col. Nos. 3 & 4: As in Census of India Report, 1991;
Col. No. 5: Computed from Child Mortality Estimates of India, 1988; and
Col. No. 6: As in Draft Eighth Five Year Plan 1992-97 & Annual Plan:1992-93: Department of Planning, Govt. of Manipur.

N.B. * Data under Col. 5 have been estimated by using the officially estimated values of Q5 for relevant male & female rural population in the formula:

Female Disadvantage or FD = (Q5f_ Q5m) / Q5f X 100 ;

** Data under Col. No. 6 are results of estimates of official survey made by Govt. of Manipur for identification of Families Below Poverty Line (BPL) in 1988.

1. The Gender-Development Index (GDI), as propounded by UNDP in its Human Development Report (1995), is factorized in terms of three equally distributed indices viz. female: (a) life expectancy; (b) educational attainment; and (c) income-earning. Hence the GDI is calculated as average of the above three equally distributed indices and has a value ranging between 0 and 1. The UNDP (1995) ranking shows Sweden's GDI as the highest (0.919); and Afghanistan's the lowest (0.169). That of India is less than even the halfway mark (0.388). Among Indian states, Kerala shows the highest (0.565) with Assam (0.347)

Both India and Inodnesia improved its GDI in terms of both indices and rankings. Over 2000-04 India's GDI improved from 0.560 to 0.591, whereby its ranking rose from 105th to 96th. For that matter, even another pluralistic nation, Indonesia bettered its GDI ranking from 91 (0.678) to 81 (0.704). Indonesia (an emerging Tiger next only to Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hongkong, has improved its HDI to 0.711 (2004) from 0.682 (2000) _ an improvement of 5.9 per cent.

But India's HDI-rankings suffered a decline from 126th to 124th , even while Indonesia improved its GDI from 110th to 108th during the period. In terms of indices India improved its HDI to 0.611 from 0.577 during the same period, while Indonesia's rose to 0.711 from 0.682.

Gender development respecting India can be indexed from: (a) sex ratio [946 & 933: 1951 & 2001]; (b) maternal mortality ratio (MMR per lakh births) [410: 1990-98]; (c) Total Fertility Rate (TFR) [4.8: 1975-80]; (d) pregnant women (%) aged 15-49 with anaemia [ 88: 1985-86]. All these are directly relevant for both gender empowerment & poverty eradication, as insourced from World Development Report, Relevant Issues.

Likewise, children status regarding India is reflected by: (a) low birth-weight (%) [33%: 1990-94]; (b) underwieght children (%) aged five [53%: 1990-98]; (c) IMR (per 1000 live births) [130 & 69: 1970 & 1998]; (d) Under-five mortality rate (per 1000 live births) [206 & 105: 1970 & 1998], as insources from World Development Report: Relevant Issues.

2. Unfortunately the GDI of Manipur is not available. Yet it should not be lower than the Indian average value 0.388, but certainly nearer that of Myanmar (0.448) and China (0.578). The above inference seems justified once it is recalled that at 59.7% female literacy (2001) of Manipur is one of the few highest in India, and further that females have traditionally been very active economically. In other words, the Manipuris appreciate the honour and dignity of hard work while solving the conflict between time and money, most of whom have fallen heavily on housewives who have over the centuries been integrating their parenting with the economic, social and emotional rewards of self-earned income.

3. Of course, there is a big chasm between the average womanhood of Manipur and the latest concept of upwardly mobile working women engaged in modern 24x7 economy, opting for dual-worker families, wherever not preempting to remain single and independent. Any attack on working mothers in general is an aspect of the cultural control system.

4. The other man's view, which is of the utmost relevance from the standpoint of Human Development Index (HDI), would rather be whether childcare and home-comfort are being sacrificed at the altar of empowerment of the current gender population. However, the preference for fulltime and near fulltime 'mothering' would be seen as undermining the options of educated females who might feel that they are failing their children. By no means such casual observation need not be deemed as a defence of the economically empowered womenfolk of Manipur, in case anyone tries to establish a causal relationship between gender empowerment as evidenced at the close of the 19th century (fin de siecle) Manipur and the much-dreaded AIDS/HIV incidence among Manipuri youth at the close of the 20th century.

5. This does not by any stretch of imagination mean denying the symbiotic effect on offsprings of the stay-at-home mothers offering their 'intensive mothering', 'smother love' and 'momism', which may in extreme cases render schizophrenogenic behaviour turning their offsprings psychotic. Clearly such symbiosis would preclude instances of widows, divorcees and mothers otherwise free from childcare and home-love.

6. King Bhagyachandra would himself volunteer to play the drum (mridanga), and encourage his own daughter to perform Ras-Lila along with other women of noble families, thereby engendering and groundswelling female participation in religious events of their own volition in religious matters without the king being required to commandeer public attendance is a unique development in the religious history of the state.

7. Detaching oneself from such historical phenomenology, one must, while passing, observe that tens of thousands of womenfolk daily converge to the present day Greater Imphal marketplace (or retail trading network), itself burgeoning onto a metropolis of one million or so spread out over large parts of the Imphal valley, just because it is sufficiently remunerative to operate either as middlemen or as sedentary vendors. Purely as a guessing game, one may infer that they stick to the retail/distributive trade as it is more remunerative than their second-best occupation (perhaps handloom weaving and, farm or nonfarm labour). As already cited, the average daily return (sales outturn minus capital charges etc.) would far exceed Rs 100.

8. However, the acute dearth of their upward mobility towards higher echelons of society is not to be discounted. Because from the futuristic and normative social engineering standpoint, the ascendancy of deserving women to top decision-making positions and their accessibility to optimal performance-oriented remunerations have to be firmly put down as achievable desiderata of such a gender empowerment policy as meet the criteria of material, social and ethical progress.

9. This does not however deny modern women their motivational role by showing appropriate anger on the model of Draupadi as the most eloquent instigator to encourage her husband king Yudhisthira (reluctant to engage in a bloody battle) to fight the usurper of his throne:

"For a woman to advise men like you is almost an insult.
And yet, my deep troubles compel me to overstep
the limits of womanly conduct, make me speak up."
(Bharavi: Kiratarjunaiya: as quoted by Amartya Sen: The Argumentative Indian)

10. Particularly in conflict situation and management (resolution) the role of women in Manipur (as in rest of globe) has gone down towards the bottom rung or at the periphery rather than at the centre, though very much leading frontline in physical movements (sports, farming, non-traditional economic activities). The UN Security Council Resolution No.1325 was adopted on 31st October 2000 as the first ever resolution specially addressing the impact of war on women, and women's contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. And yet the said resolution cannot be extended to Manipur, as Government of India responded by saying that there is no armed conflict in the country.

11. In a stable polity with full-fledged rule of law, irrespective of whatever inherent difficulties inhibiting the second gender, one positive advantage is certainly theirs. They certainly outlive the other gender. And life is divine, at least hitherto beyond compare. Whether on balance this advantage can outweigh her disadvantages is a different question.

12. All in all, economics lie at the heart of most political issues. The trend in widening inequality is often overstated. In discussing whether women are discriminated against in the workplace, Thomas Sowell cites in his Economic Facts and Fallacies:Basic Books:2007 that never-married female academics earned more than male academics of similar standing. Where women earn less, it is more due to rational factors (such as their unwillingness to work long hours) than to sexism.

13. Of the 9.7 million children dying globally before they attain the age of 5, India accounts for 2.1 million though the mortality rate has declined by 34 per cent between 1990 and 2006.

14. Mothers' poor health is the prime reason for child mortality, as can well be inferred from the major causes of child mortality: neonatal 37%; pneumonia 19%; diarrhoea 17%; and AIDS 3%. As far as low birth-weight deaths are concerned, India accounts for 8.3% of the global data. As many as 35% of global undernourished children live in India all related to poverty. "The world will not achieve the millennium development goals without achieving these. UNICEF representative in India, Gianni Murxzi said.


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