Seram Neken

Seram Neken

Writer , Blogger, Journalist and Freelancer

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Wednesday, 22 August 2012 00:00


Has the time come for the pen-holders to take up arms for self-defense ?

By being a good friend of the poor, the deprived, the downtrodden and the neglected, media has become the notorious enemy of the corrupt and the anti-socials. In trying to maintain its ideal features of fairness, authenticity and social responsibility, media has always been offended by many individuals and groups. Still people in the media tolerate the attacks on its freedom for social good. Its mission is rather to counter the evils in the society. Pen alone is the available weapon of the media.

Newspapers were off the stands on 13th August last as reaction to the bomb attack on the president of All Manipur Working Journalists Union some days back. There have also been strong reactions of the media fraternity against the bomb hoax in two newspaper offices of the state a week back. The threat on the media by an underground organization was also reported earlier. Common people, mostly readers and listeners in the nook and corner now condemn such acts against the media freedom.

Media fraternity in Manipur has often been the soft target for the conflict between the state and the non-state actors. Newspaper publication in Manipur is many a time disrupted for one or the other reasons. In 2010, publication works in Churachandpur district were halted in protest against the intimidation to a news reporter of the ‘Lamka Post’ by the group KNF(MC). The newsman who reported misappropriation of huge quantity of rice under Integrated Child Development Scheme in its 29 July 2010 edition on the basis of a public programme in Churachandpur, received threats from a hardcore cadre of the proscribed group that demanded a corrigendum of the news report as the later felt it too vivid.

Newspapers were also off the stands earlier for some time due to intimidation on the Sangai Express Churachandpur Correspondent S. Singlianmang Guite by armed Hmar People’s Convention (D) in last week of July 2010. Way back in 2005, the Manipur Hill Journalists Union ceased publication of all Churachandpur-based newspapers from June 16 to 19 protesting against pressures from churachandpur based armed bodies.

Murders, assaults and kidnappings mark the history of the Press in Manipur. Gunmen shot dead Kangla Lanpung Editor RK Sanatomba on 30 June 1993 at his gate and in October 1999, editor of Hmar newspaper ‘SHAN’ A Lalrohlu Hmar was killed by Hmar Revolutionary Army (HRA) cadres. Manipur News’ editor Thounaojam Brajamani Singh, the then president of the Manipur State Journalists Association was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on August 20, 2000. Armed men killed Yambem Megha of ‘North East Vision’ in Imphal on October 14, 2002. Sub-editor Konsham Rishikanta of ‘Imphal Free Press’ was suspiciously murdered on November 17, 2008. In February 2006, gunmen attacked ‘Poknapham’ dailies Ratan Luwangcha, the then general secretary of the All-Manipur Working Journalists Union (AMWJU). On December 20, 2006, the editor and publisher of ‘Kangla Pao’ Paonam Labango Mangang was attacked in front of his office in Imphal.

In spite of identification as a journalist, security forces beat up Yumnam Ranjan, reporter of ‘Sana Leibak’ at his residence on the behest of dispersing protesting women groups on July 23, 2004. N Noren of ‘The Sangai Express’ and W Lukhoi of ‘Mannaba’ were brutally assaulted by CRPF personnel posted at Sajiwa jail on February 20, 2005 while covering an agitation. On March 14, 2007, Assam Rifles posted at Kotlien in Tamenglong district beat up ‘Ireibak’ daily’s Th Brojen and ISTV’s Gagaan by snatching away their cameras during coverage of a girl’s rape case by an AR personnel.

An insurgent group also bombarded the office of Pan Manipur Youth League where the newspaper ‘Lamyanba’ was supposed to be published. Former Editor of ‘Hueiyen Lanpao’ Bharat Bhushan, former editor of ‘Naharolgee Thoudang’ N Biren, editor of the ‘Freedom’ RK Ranendrajit, to mention a few, had to enjoy the state government’s hospitality in jail on charges of sedition and threatening national security through their editorial contents which were never proved. Protesting against the police assault on two journalists on October 10, 2009, around 130 journalists surrendered their accreditation cards to the government.

In August 2007, the media community in Manipur protested against the government order prohibiting publication of items related to underground activities. The order cautioned the press not to publish items related to unlawful organisations, organised gangs and terrorist-related bodies. It prohibited publication of obituary notices for ‘shradha’, ‘asti-sanchai’, cremation and burial ceremonies of UG members, and also threats by unlawful organizations, any behavior or dress code or social practice decreed by unlawful organizations. Publications of any justification for killings, injuries, assaults, kidnappings, imposition of fines or warnings made by unlawful organizations and notices for payments or invitations to them were banned as per the Section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The state Cabinet on August 10, 2007 amended the order following protests by the journalists for days.

In April 2006, an underground organization held six newspaper editors hostage all the night forcing them to publish a statement about the outfit’s “raising day” celebration which the editors had previously ignored. The KCP faction also clamped a three-month ban on the ‘Imphal Free Press’ for misquoting an earlier statement. Over a tussle between two factions of Peoples Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), a grenade in the guise of a nice gift was presented to the ‘Sangai Express’ editor on July 31, 2007. One of them wanted the statement of the other to be dropped from publication. The case came to a close on 5th August 2007 with the group assuring not to repeat the incident in future.
All Manipur Working Journalists Union launched a three-day strike starting July 24, 2010, in protest against the death threat imposed on the ‘Sanaleibak’ editor and AMWJU spokesperson A Mobi by an UG group. The tussle was raised as one faction of the group wanted its statement to be published and the other warned not to do so.
Media is the fourth basic requirement of modern democracy. Citizens take part in governance in modern democracy by electing their representatives for a certain period. It is the ardent requirement of a representative democracy that its people are well conversed with what their representatives are doing. Those in government also need to know what their people want to do. An independent media serves both the purposes – to inform the people of what the government is doing and to report to the government what its people react and wish. Without media, the distance between the governed and the governors will become too wide to bring in people’s government.

Apart from being the fourth estate of a democracy, media unites people around the globe. The world has been reduced to a small village by means of various channels of communication. Barring differences of language, culture, race and nationalities, people everywhere can share and react to any eventuality happening in the nook and corner of the earth in no time. The human race has become closer to one another via the media. Media today is also keeping a strong vigil on the misdeeds, commissions and omissions of individuals and organizations everywhere. A number of scandals and scams can not escape the eyes of the media. The power of media has become so strong that it can up-keep, overthrow and correct various regimes around the world. The society that neglects the importance of media will never prosper in any field.

Educational reform in Manipur is a difficult task, which the new minister of education takes up with huge enthusiasm. Shri M. Okendra Singh has decided to travel the road less travelled by his predecessors in order to make a difference. It is indeed the road not taken, from where it is doubtful one may ever come back. A young dynamic and academic leader, the new minister may be able to qualitatively effect the whole structural ramifications in Manipur Education. In the past governments, people of Manipur witnessed varied ministers. Tall promises without any commitment and action featured in some high ranking deputies of the chief minister Okram Ibobi. The Chief Minister was probably disgraced on many occasions where his YES ministers hardly vomited appreciable actions for the public. There were also ministers in previous governments whose political career met an abrupt end with the completion of their tenure. This is because of the fact that they hardly delivered any public service worthy of remembrance and appreciation. This time, let the people pray for action-oriented ministers instead of the previous inactive tall talk ministers. Promises kept will glorify the individual ministers, whereas non-attainment of assurances will surely discredit Chief Minister O. Ibobi in the long run. Among the new ministers, a few are keeping mum. Some are highly active and innovative. Newspaper front pages for the last few weeks have been filled with promises of overhauling the degraded systems in their respective sectors. Concerning a few departments, some actions have proved visible to the public eye. A positive perspective in governance may well be expected with the new energetic ministers in the Ibobi Singh ministry swearing to bring in numerous innovations. Promises kept will certainly reveal the commitment and ability of the individual ministers while promises unattained will divulge the irresponsibility of chief minister O. Ibobi as he leads the mission. Negative results of the tall talks will boomerang on the state’s leadership. Governance is a mission and sacrifice of selfishness among the governors. Apparently, some of the cabinet ministers have come out to work with a social service mission and political commitment.

The Chief Minister assures adequate power and water supplies for the state during his swearing-in for the third time. Home Minister Shri Gaikhangam pledges to strengthen the police structure in remote hill areas. Industry Minister Govindas Konthoujam affirms for a suitable industrial policy of the state. Dr. Kh Ratankumar has already set on his highway improvement mission in the hill districts. Social Welfare Minister AK Mirabai expresses her initiatives for equity and quality provision of basic amenities. Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Francis Ngajokpa personally inspected the development schemes taken up in hill districts and articulated his concerns for sub-standard works. Agriculture Minister Md. Nasir reveals his plans to seek possible central aide for development of agriculture sector. IFCD Minister Ngamthang Haokip chalks out plans for conservation and boosting of Singda Multi-purpose project. PHED Minister I. Hemochandra assures the completion of much-talked about sewerage project in Imphal by March next year. He discloses plans for sea change in water supply in the state. Among the new enterprises of the present ministry, Shri M. Okendra’s reformative initiatives in education and civil supplies sectors are laudable, although the materialization of promises may not be a simple and smooth task. Education has been the most notorious of the portfolios in previous ministries. It has been indeed an untouchable portfolio among ministers, as those holding this sector rarely returned back to power. Being the most corrupt and irregular department, education has almost lost public confidence and credibility during the last few decades. Quality education produces quality society. It is the most important sector which needs urgency and prioritization to bring about a civilized society. Fortunately of now, the people of Manipur find an academic, committed and energetic reformer in the person of Shri M. Okendra who has just landed on the road not taken by his predecessors. He comes out with tall promises and has demonstrated certain actions in regard to education and civil supplies sectors. The pledges of delivering LPG to domestic houses, of making available vehicle fuel round the clock and in sufficient quantity, of smashing black marketers, so on and so forth are being appreciated by all and sundry. Reformation in education being the biggest challenge is the most welcome project of the young minister. He has pledged to finalize seniority list of teachers, which became unrealistic for the last three decades. A new education is being executed with urgency, for which the minister is inviting suggestions from interested persons via the media. Public participation in education reformation is on the cards now. Political commitment coupled with active involvement, sacrifice and dedication of the leadership is the need of the hour to realize dreams of reformation. Such a venture never surfaced in the Manipur political environment in the past, nor any minister vies for that. Reformation in Education sector lies mostly in having good, academic and dedicated teachers in government schools. As there were rampant corruption and bribery in appointments of school teachers, the appointed teachers lack knowledge of the subject and teaching enthusiasm. Appointment based only on certificates and bribes can not produce quality teachers. Very unfortunate thing is the average unemployed educated youths of the state turning to teaching profession, as their job avenues are scanty. Even wives of high ranked officers, MLAs and Ministers vie for teaching profession as their leisure-destinations. Quality education lies in quality teachers. Numerous poor and well-experienced graduates serving in private schools could not become government teachers due to high level of corruption. If possible, education revamping means appointment of quality teachers on the basis of complete knowledge test, not solely on certificates. Corruption should be completely shunned in teacher appointments. Existing teachers need regular refresher trainings to compulsorily update their knowledge regularly. Besides framing a rigid transfer and posting policy for teachers, there must be a Public Grievance or Public Relations Cell in School Education to listen to all kinds of complaints from guardians and public. Urgent actions regarding teacher attendance, learning inadequacies, provision of infrastructure and student amenities etc. may be taken up through the newly mooted Cell. The State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) needs to become academic by having an academician as its Director. The public hopes for good and commensurate actions from the new education minister.

Saturday, 18 August 2012 00:00

Child Rights at Stake in Manipur.

Manipur needs a strong and energetic State Commission for ensuring Child Rights in the midst of frequent child trafficking, kidnapping, physical assaults, sexual abuses, deprivations, hunger, illiteracy and after-all emotional insecurity. It should be implemented under a comprehensive policy on children’s rights with strong political commitment.

Even after six and a half decades of Independence from foreign domination and after fifty two years of commencement of Indian Constitution, children in Manipur are not secured enough on the laps of their mothers, in their homes, in classrooms and on the streets. Besides innumerable cases of child trafficking, kidnapping for ransom or forced recruitment, physical assaults, sexual abuses and so on, we are seeing hundreds and hundreds of children without proper food, proper health care, basic education, enough clothing and emotional security.  In reality, children in Manipur do not get their due. Children are still openly utilized in hotels, restaurants, automobile workshops and domestic households.  Many children do not go to school in spite of having implemented the Right to Education Act.
Universally, a child is a human being below the age of 18 years. India always recognizes persons below 18 years of age with distinct legal entity. People below 18 years can not vote, can not get a driving license, can not enter into legal contracts. Marriage of a girl below the age of 18 years and a boy below 21 years is restrained under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. India entitles the benefits of juvenile justice to persons below the age of 18 years.

Article 23 of the Indian Constitution Guarantees right against exploitation, prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour and makes their practice punishable under law. Article 24 prohibits employment of children below 14 years of age in factories, mines or other hazardous employment. Article 21 (A) of Indian Constitution guarantees the Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age group. Article 39 (e) guarantees the right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength.

Right to equality (Article 14), Right against discrimination (Article 15), Right to personal liberty (Article 21), Right to being protected from being trafficked and forced into bonded labour (Article 23), Right of weaker sections of the people to be protected from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46) etc. are all concerned with protection of child rights.

Indian Penal Code under section 366(A) states that procuring of a minor girl from one part of the country to another is punishable. Section 366 (B) prohibits importation of a girl below 21 years of age. Section 374 provides punishment for compelling any person to labour against his will.

Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, (ITPA) 1956 deals exclusively with trafficking of girl child in order to inhibit / abolish traffic in women and girls for the purpose of prostitution as an organized means of living. Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 prohibits employment of children in certain specified occupations and also lays down conditions of work of children.

Information Technology Act, 2000 penalizes publication or transmission in electronic form of any material which is lascivious. The law has relevance to addressing the problem of pornography. India has also adopted a code of conduct for Internet Service Providers with the objective to enunciate and maintain high standard of ethical and professional practices in the field of Internet and related services.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 enacted in consonance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); and consolidates and amends the law relating to juveniles in conflict with law and to children in need of care and protection.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography 2000, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 1979, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children etc. are some important international laws related to children’s rights. SAARC Convention on Regional Arrangement for the Promotion of Child Welfare, 2002 also aims at protection of children’s rights.
India has set up a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 for ensuring that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. States such as Assam, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Goa, Jarkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Orissa, Punjab, Rahjasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Uttarkhand have their own state commissions to deal with child rights protection.
Children becoming victims of insurgency and terrorism are common in Manipur as some underground outfits resorted to forced recruitment of the minors against established legal frameworks. Kidnapping of kids for demanding ransom has been witnessed many a time in Manipur society. Deportation and trafficking of children outside the state and country for various illegal purposes have also been seen in wide scale in the state. Small children are serving the customers in Manipur hotels and restaurants, working in automobile workshops and even as domestic helpers in many households. The ugly reality meted out to the minor humans can hardly be dealt with sufficiently by the short hands of the state social welfare department, NGOs and police department. Manipur strongly needs a State Commission for protecting the children’s rights.

In January 2010, ninety three kids from Manipur were reported rescued from a house in Tamil Nadu. Again in the same month, fifty three children from Manipur were rescued from an unregistered orphanage in Tamil Nadu. In February 2010, three kids from Churachandpur district were rescued from Tamil Nadu. In March 2010, Police in Imphal intercepted an inter-state bus where ten kids including three girls from Churachandpur were being carried for trafficking. Twenty seven children including nine girls (twenty one from Chandel, four from Churachandpur, two from Senapati districts) were rescued from unregistered children homes based in Chennai and Kanyakumari in April 2010. In September 2010, police rescued one child from a hotel in Paona Bazar and three others from Imphal Airport. These are a few recent events where rights of children were violated.
In lighter vein, many children are reportedly made to work under the NREGS as job card holders. In spite of huge pouring-in of funds for various schemes and projects related to children, most of the Creche centres and Anganwadi centres in the state are not functioning properly due to various reasons. In such a situation, where children face all forms of deprivation and victimization, adoption of holistic children’s policy and institution of a commission to deal with protection of child rights is a must.

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