Our Youth off to Greener Pastures!
There was a time when one could count on the fingers of one hand the number of Manipuris who either worked or had settled abroad. These persons commanded great respect from their fellows because they were considered to possess unique qualities and successful in their chosen fields. They were awe-inspiring. But the situation has changed dramatically in the last few two or three decades with many Manipuri young men and women doing extremely well in many fields in different parts of the world.
The absence of opportunities is perhaps one of the main causes of our youth leaving home in search of employment and new avenues in other states of India and other countries. Some decide to come back to Manipur after spending some years there while others prefer to settle there as they do not see much hopes here. A few of them are extremely doing well and serving the people here by translating their experiences into action. They too might have at one stage thought of not returning and settling anywhere beside Manipur. Undoubtedly these young people bring us new hopes and will encourage the future generation to follow in their footsteps in bringing about better changes in the lives of the people.
I do not know the exact number of Manipuris who have settled in different states of India and abroad but I am certain that the number of young men and women working in various cities has gone up considerably in the last one or two decades and is likely to grow as the situation is unlikely to improve in the near future. Studies can be carried out to find out if the increase in the population of the Manipuris living outside has anything to do with the lack of good educational institutions and employment opportunities and the changes in the lives of families whose sons or daughters are employed outside Manipur. The real picture might be completely different from what we thought or imagined. Incidentally some old parents have left the state and followed their children as there is no option left for them. There is no one to look after them as their sons and daughters have decided to settle in other parts of the world.
Of course I would be wrong if I say we have remained unchanged. We have witnessed many changes in the state in the last decade. We have seen mushrooming of private schools, hospitals, coaching institutes and designer shops. There has been a sharp increase in the number of both two-wheelers and four-wheelers of different makes. However I find it really difficult to find an answer when somebody asks me to name a few remarkable achievements we have made in any field in the recent past. Because we have not been able to make any despite the tall claims we made.
As parents we want to share whatever we have with our children. We also want them to have all the opportunities we could or did not get and hope that they would someday be a part of the change we always dreamt about. Our children, as individuals too have their dreams and we cannot impose our values on them. But what is wrong if parents expect their sons or daughters to contribute something to the society by executing what they learnt in colleges and universities into action? Or shall we call these young men and women cowards who do not want to come back to where they once belonged to because now they feel they are no more a part of it? Are they ashamed of their roots? Is it not their responsibility to contribute whatever they can to bring about better changes here? What is the purpose of education if it cannot help the students understand the needs of the society and the people?
Educationists, economists, engineers, doctors, teachers, bureaucrats, businessmen (industrialists), entrepreneurs, agriculturists, – we have so many of them. We too have an elected government. We get funds for various development programmes from the Government of India too. Then why is it that we have not been able to make much progress in most fields? When we go out of Manipur we tend to compare what we see there with what we have here - the roads, the electricity, the water supply, the schools, the colleges, the universities, the hospitals, the markets, the malls. The question that immediately pops up in our head is why can’t we have them when they can. I wonder if such thoughts do not at all occur in the minds of our ministers and bureaucrats. Please try to see the progress other states have achieved and think what has gone wrong with us?
Whose loss it will be if our young men and women decide not to come back home after their studies? It is not the parents alone who are going to suffer, the whole state will be the loser. Ask any parent if they want their children to settle abroad. All parents want their children to be near them and do something for the state. Let the children have proper education from anywhere. But give them the opportunity to work for their own people. Don’t think I am being selfish. Everyone is selfish. “Think globally, act locally”.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com)