Article details

Introduction by Dr Chinglen Maisnam

Seram Neken is a free lance journalist voicing for over a decade for social equity and justice through the medium of mass media. He has had a considerable amount of experience in journalism. Although journalists/columnists believe in the principles of fairness and balance, it is generally acknowledged today that true objectivity does not exist because just and comprehensive reporting cannot rely on facts alone. Furthermore, towards the end of the 20th century, there appeared a new form of journalism known as a "journalism of attachment... which cares as well as knows." This form of journalism has been popularized today. The dominant view of the mission of journalism for many columnists or reporters is to "provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing." Should journalists be change-makers or reporters of change, the vast majority will chose: change-makers-a view shared by leading journalists. The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behaviour that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. The role of the media in shaping public debate and covering state, society, governance is, thus, one of the most important concerns facing journalists/columnists today. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfil this role requires systematic propaganda. (Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky). At a time when fundamental notion of mass media is being contested and fractured, Neken's diagnosis of contemporary issues is persuasive from a number of disciplinary perspectives. I hope it will alarm readers.

His first book entitled "State, Society & Governance" is based on articles published over three years. The author has covered nearly all aspects of the most contentious theme of the contemporary era. The articles address a wide range of critical issues, concepts, debates, perspectives which reflect the diverse academic and public interests. The issues of conflict, ethnicity, discrimination, social exclusion, human rights, gender, health, education, culture, corruption and poverty alleviation have gained academic discussion and discourse in recent years. The understanding of these issues and their linkages to the political, social, human, institutional and socioeconomic dimensions are important for effective policy paradigms. It should be appreciated by a wider section of academia not just audience of the public. It would not be sensible to attempt and review each of the articles here but a brief discussion of some of them will give the reader a good sense of its essence and content. The book is divided into six chapters.

Chapter One- Society and governance

In his first article, the author contests the broader notion of what we call social worker in Manipur. He argues that the notion doesn't hold the true sense of the term in his view. For one thing, he explains "Manipur has recently witnessed a wealthy young generation who have accumulated enough wealth by hook or by crook and come out to gain political leadership in the guise of social workers". The author goes further questioning "Who is a social worker and what is his qualification? Does wealth and muscle power groom a social worker?" It is the quite dramatically different conceptions of what social worker can and should be whether and in what ways it is fashionable, and to whose benefit it should be both in theory and in practice. The discussion then turns to the critical issues such as corruption, distributive injustice, homeland demands, district reorganisation, economic blockades, short term profit making illegal online businesses etc.

Chapter Two- Communication and Education

This chapter identifies issues like the press under pressure, new media and its liberty, communication and social progress, and businification of education. The emergence of Information Communications Technology (ICT) as a tool of development across different parts of the world opens up new possibilities. However, Manipur has remained backward in the field of communications and even after 66 years of Independence, the state has a poor economy and connectivity remains a problem. One interesting topic of this chapter is on commercialisation of education. Public education system is under fire today. In the name of preparing the new generation to face new emerging scenario of Globalisation, Liberalisation and Privatisation, the social contents of education is being displaced by economic logic which pays more attention to economic returns than social needs. The pursuit of neo-liberal development trajectory by the ruling officials since the early nineties has transformed the field of education into a battleground of conflicting interests. Indeed, there are two basic conflicting views prevalent about education today. One view, which represents official position, advocates the privatization, commercialization and deregulation of education. The other, which represents the majority, wants to promote and strengthen the public education system so as to enable the country to emerge as a powerful knowledge economy in the globalised scenario. The author in his article on "Academy commercialised" critically examines the views and stand of the ruling officials with regard to public educational institutes in Manipur. To them, everything that shines is private, " the absence of government's care and supervision in all aspects of education, the private schools are monopolising education and turning schools into industries". Indeed "Education has been highly commercialized in Manipur".

Chapter Three : Environment

This chapter focuses on the various facets of environmental pollution, traffic woes in Imphal city etc.. He discusses the challenge of the looming environmental crisis which is driven by indefinitely expanding consumption-led growth practice. "Excessive exploitation of natural resources for temporary and materialistic comforts is a crime against Nature and Humanity" warned the author.

Chapter Four: Women and Children

The Chapter looks at the present scenario of women and children in Manipur. The decades' long violent-conflict has altered the social fabric of Manipur. The people particularly women and children are living under tremendous stress, and this has deeply changed their cultural and social values. There is the untold story of the devastating psychological and social consequences, in addition to the physical trauma. The print and electronic media are full of reports on crime and violence against women and children. It reflects the underlying belief that violence against women and children is a routine aspect of daily life and does not require serious thought. It is a major social and human rights challenge for the state and thus a main roadblock to women's empowerment and gender equity. HIV/AIDS has also added to the woes. Poverty and lack of gainful employment in the rural areas and in the smaller towns drive large numbers of people particularly women to the Imphal and Khwairamband bazar for work and livelihood. These people generally possess low skills and lack the level of education. For these people work in the informal sector are the only means for their survival. This has led to a rapid growth of the informal sector in the state. For the urban poor, hawking is one of the means of earning a livelihood, as it requires minor financial input and the skills involved are low. There is sizeable increase in the number of hawkers/vendors in Manipur. Hawkers in Manipur are exclusively women; except for a handful of male. These women vendors constitute the poorer sections of traders in the state. The author correctly describes women street vendors as "mothers, rather responsible mothers who groom the future pillars of the nation with their sweat". In his "My best friend", the author, illustrating the present state of Manipur Society, comments that "Manipur society today, has been plagued with ill-behaviour of the adolescence.. .The lifestyles, dresses, food habits and discipline of the young generation have been widely changed" what are the social and cultural costs of these changes? Are alternatives to these challenges emerging at the levels of community, the family, and life-worlds? These are some of the issues which need to be addressed.

Chapter Five: Health and Drugs

Chapter five deals with Health and Drugs. This chapter is a collection of articles which examine critically the Manipur's experience in terms of gaps with respect to a set of socio-economic development with special reference to health and drugs. It also brings out evidence on the exclusionary and inequitable nature and attitude of the organs of the state. We are all aware of the fact that the most important facet of Manipur's economy is the collapsing of commodity producing sector. The commodity producing sector is almost shrunken. The present state of violent conflict in Manipur has also compounded the problem. More recently, HIV/AIDS has emerged as a new form of stigma-related social exclusion. Problems of poverty, inequality, backwardness and social exclusion have also surfaced in a sharp dimension. Young people from poor households are increasingly emerging as a socially excluded group. With limited opportunities for employment or self-employment, many are found to be following patterns of behaviour which would further damage their future: crime, drug abuse, human trafficking, alcoholism and prostitution. The agenda of inclusion is perhaps informed by such an experience. In his article on "Statistical complacency" he has correctly drawn the conclusion that "There is no dearth of problems in Sana Leibak Manipur. From law and order menace, communal flare-ups, extortion and terrorism to unavailability of text books for students; from economic drain, price-rise, inadequate roads, power and water supply to drug abuse, alcoholism and HIV/AIDS; each and every issue ever found around the globes is here in Manipur"

Chapter six: Culture and Tradition

The final Chapter deals with the Culture and tradition. We see globalisation primarily as an economic phenomenon that has ushered in the harmonization of economic, political and cultural practices worldwide. It is taking place linking standardization of culture summed up with the concept of 'McDonaldization'. International brands in consumer products are being embraced on a global scale with trans-national institutions taking account of local legal codes, currencies, local tastes, habits, customs and adjusting to a new global order. Does current trajectory of neo-liberalism promote the preservation and progress of the indigenous tradition and cultural sovereignty of a peripheral region? Answer to this question is not trouble-free. The central message of the author in this chapter is that inspite of many odds, popularity of traditional culture and tradition in Manipur stood the test of the time. Popularities of Sumang Lila, Raseswari Pala, and Keli chana, Keli kao are such examples.

A logical work of merit, nevertheless, there is an exuding simplicity of language in the way the author puts across his interpretations and ideas. An in dept-observance of facts and realities enables him to look at the critical issues and problems of the state from a perspective worth appreciating. Given the wide range of topics, debates, perspectives, issues and disciplines represented in the book what, if anything holds it together? I would leave it to the readers to decide whether, and to what extent, the book has been able to further the cause of an alternative paradigm for developing new, fresh perspectives that are relevant to Manipur context.

Read article:    About the Author

     Powered by: