Aware, Awake & Arise: Issues that concern the region

Thursday, February 14, 2008

ICT Integration in School Education: A Sociological Proposition

Otojit Kshetrimayum*

This article has been published in Journal of Indian Education. Vol. XXXIII. No. 1, May 2007.
p. 62-70.

The paper argues that sufficient considerations should be made at the socio-cultural levels in attempts at integrating ICT in school education. One of the major factors for the effective integration of ICT in school education depends on the school’s culture. This paper draws an inference from this perspective on the Computer Aided Learning programme under Sarva Siksha Aviyan in India. This paper suggests that school structures, classroom dynamics and student behaviours should be in coordination with teacher belief for effective ICT integration in school education. Long-range planning for software developers and schools of education should include a vision that nurtures decision-making and development by teachers, rather than implementing systems solely from the level of policymakers.

There have been new directions in information and communication technology (ICT) with regard to teaching and learning processes. From a pedagogical point of view, ICT appears to offer more educational benefits than other, more traditional, teaching methods. ICT can be used for simulation, visualization and modeling; as cognitive tools; as assessment tools; in wireless and computing; for e-learning environments; for facilitating learning communities; and for project work and authentic tasks. Wegeriff (2004) shows that a combination of pedagogy and software design can exploit the ambivalent nature of computers to make them serve as both interactive agents/ tutors, and as passive ‘learning environments’ within the one educational exchange.
The integration of ICT in school education as an instructional or educational technology is steadily escalating, just as it is in other sectors of society. Whereas in the 1980s the introduction of ICT was mainly fostered in the schools by a fragment of local initiatives, we find in the 1990s there has been a substantial increase of interest from policy makers, which has led to various policy actions. There are a number of arguments to support a policy encouraging the use of ICT in teaching. However, in many cases, it has been a case of fitting the curriculum to the computer rather than the computer to the curriculum.
In India, computer-aided education at the primary stage was allowed as an “innovative” activity under the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) since 1995. Such a provision still exists under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), which is the central government’s flagship programme for universalizing elementary education of ‘good quality’. Of late, several IT corporate houses have also initiated projects for computer-aided learning in elementary and secondary schools. Under the SSA, several states have launched meaningful programmes of computer-aided learning (CAL) at the elementary level by developing multi-media based content related to the curriculum at the primary or upper primary stages of education. However the quality is uneven and the entire effort lacks a sense of direction and purpose and a clear understanding of the future course of action (Rahman and Jhingran 2005).
Integration: A Conceptual Understanding
The integration of modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) into teaching-learning process has the potential to augment tools and environments for achieving these objectives of education and learning at schools. Using of ICTs in education means more than simply teaching learners to use computers. Technology is a means for improving education and not an end in itself. The real question must focus on integration into teaching practices, learning experiences, and the curriculum. Integration includes a sense of completeness or wholeness and incorporates the need to overcome artificial separations by bringing together all essential elements in the teaching and learning process– including technology.
Integration is not defined by the amount or type of technology used, but by how and why it is used. Technologies must be pedagogically sound. They must go beyond information retrieval to problem solving; allow new instructional and learning experiences not possible without them; promote deep processing of ideas; increase student interaction with subject matter; promote faculty and student enthusiasm for teaching and learning; and free up time for quality classroom interaction- in sum, improve the pedagogy (Earle 2002: 7). Integration of ICT or Computer Aided Learning (CAL) in school education does not mean placement of hardware in classrooms. Moreover, integrating technology is primarily about content and effective instructional practices. However, for an effective integration of ICT in school education depends on various factors like social-cultural dimensions; environmental, personal, social and curricular factors; and factors extrinsic and intrinsic to teachers. Nevertheless, ICT should improve the pedagogy. The emphasis of CAL is not just on the acquisition of knowledge in specific subjects but on helping learners to acquire creativity, curiosity, and enterprise.
Social factors affecting technology integration
Sutherland (2004) argues that much of the hype around e-learning is fundamentally flamed in that it fails to take into account the social, cultural and historical aspects of learning. The main barriers to adoption of computers in teaching and learning are not primarily technical but are organizational and social in nature. The blockages are i) lack of information on suitable materials in each discipline, and ii) unwillingness of the authorities to recognize and reward effort put into improving teaching, whether by utilizing or by producing computer based teaching and learning materials; recognition for courseware designers; suitability of existing courseware; and courseware delivery (Derby 1992).
Hung and Koh (2004) have proposed a socio-cultural framework to IT integration. They have given four dimensions for IT integration, which are inter-related and would impact efforts in it integration: school structures, classroom dynamics, teacher beliefs, and student behaviours. The first dimension- school structures- considers the school’s culture, workflow processes, which are in place, the design of the curriculum structure, reward systems, and the kinds of overarching beliefs and include physical infrastructures and designed set-ups of school buildings and classrooms. The classroom dynamics dimension includes the pedagogies practiced and implemented during curriculum and non-curriculum time organised by the school. The third dimension is concerned with the individual teacher beliefs, which strongly influence classroom behaviour and the propensity to change classroom behaviour. The fourth dimension involves student behaviours as manifested in the classroom, with teachers as either disseminators of information or as facilitators of knowledge construction. They claim that all four dimensions of the framework must be interrelated and lead to the consistent outcomes desired by the school. They further assert that consistent changes in all dimensions of the framework are necessary over time in order to see IT infused in the school. Incremental changes in any one of the dimensions may yield minimal change; whereas consistent changes at multiple dimensions of the school- from school structure to student behaviour- would yield maximal change.
Change starts with the individual teacher, who upon catching the vision is willing to take risks, to experience confrontations or encounters in rethinking teaching and learning. Integration involves preparation of the teacher, commitment by the teacher, following-up on that commitment by the support team, and resolving teacher concerns arising during the change process (Earle 2002:10). Chanlin et al (2006) have identified four factors that influence teachers’ use of technology in creative teaching- environmental, personal, social and curricular. Environmental factors are concerned with issues related to computer facilities. Personal factors are related to a teacher’s personality and beliefs. Social factors that influence an individual’s effort in the use of technology and creative teaching in classrooms also play an important role in the process and production of creative teaching outcomes. The curricular factors involve issues related to the goals and instructional setting within particular courses. These research-based findings reflect that not only creative teaching environment and personal factors influenced the integration of computer technology but also social and curricular factors surrounding teaching and learning issues. Thus we observe that the factors affecting technology integration according to Chanlin et al, i.e., environmental, personal and social, and curricular are in congruence with Hung and Koh’s socio-cultural dimensions i.e., school structure, teacher beliefs and classroom dynamics respectively.
Baylor and Ritchie (2002) examine the impact of seven factors related to school technology (planning, leadership, technology use, teacher openness to change, and teacher non-school computer use) on five dependent measures in the areas of teacher skills (technology competency and technology integration), teacher morale, and perceived student learning (impact on student content acquisition and higher order thinking skills acquisition). The degree of teacher openness to change was repeatedly found to be a critical variable as a predictor in this study. Teachers, who are open to change, whether this change is imposed by administrators or as a result of self-exploration, appear to easily adapt technologies to help students learn content and increase their higher level thinking skills. It also shows that as these teachers incorporate these technologies, their own level of technical competence increases, as does their morale. The study asserts that although administrators contribute to the positive interactions of technology in a school, of greater significance was teacher attributes.
CAL under SSA in India: A Sociological Proposition
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is to provide useful and relevant elementary education for all children in the 6 to 14 age group by 2010. There is also another goal to bridge social, regional and gender gaps, with the active participation of the Panchayati Raj Institutions, School Management Committees, Village and Urban Slum level Education Committees, Parents' Teachers' Associations, Mother Teacher Associations, Tribal Autonomous Councils and other grass root level structures in the management of elementary schools in the management of schools. It is a response to the demand for quality basic education all over the country. The SSA programme is also an attempt to provide an opportunity for improving human capabilities to all children, through provision of community-owned quality education in a mission mode.
Glaring feature of SSA is that it lays a special thrust on making education at the elementary level useful and relevant for children by improving the curriculum, child centred activities and effective teaching-learning activities. Many argue that ICT enabled education is a possible route for improving the quality of education delivery and thereby tackling – albeit partially – the issue of drop-outs. Well designed educational content can act as an important supplement to text books and routine classroom interactions, especially using the power of multimedia and simulation to explain abstract and hard-to-understand concepts and to sustain interest and curiosity even in an otherwise dull school environment. The objectives of CAL at Elementary level under SSA are to facilitate effective delivery of curriculum content; to act as an effective supplement for teachers to improve learning levels in the school since it facilitates practical and experimental learning; to serve as a means to attract children to schools with the multimedia i.e., audio-visual form of learning on various subjects of classroom teaching and thus hold their attention, thus tackling the challenge of dropouts and achievement of enrolment.
Some of the CAL programmes under SSA in various states of India are briefly highlighted in the subsequent section.
Computer-Aided Learning in Elementary Schools (CALiES) in Assam
The Government of Assam, under the aegis of the Ahom Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Mission introduced ICTs to assist and supplement classroom transactions for improving the quality of education delivery since 2003-2004. Piloted as “Computer-aided Learning in Elementary Schools (CALiES)” in 500 elementary schools in Assam, this innovative programme has three dimensions of implementation: Multimedia based educational content, Delivery of teacher training and Provisioning of computer hardware. This programme has now been rechristened as ‘Smart Schools’.
‘Headstart’ in Madhya Pradesh
'Headstart', one of the largest computer-enabled education programmes India, is aimed at making the learning process interactive and interesting through computers. Initiated by the Rajiv Gandhi Shiksha Mission (RGSM) of Madhya Pradesh government, this is a project essentially aimed at improving the quality of learning through the use of computers in the classroom in primary and middle schools. Launched in the year 2000 as a pilot project in about 648 schools, the programme was later expanded to over 2,718 rural schools across the state at the elementary level.
CALP (Computer Aided Learning Programme) in Rajasthan
This programme has the following approach: computer awareness and literacy among teachers and students, healthy teaching learning process through CALP, more conceptual clarity of the nstudent through CALP, re-enforcement through spot assessment of the children, and improvement in quality of education. Upto 2006-07, the programme has covered 1100 Upper primary Schools with 1.5 lakhs and 3300 teachers.
CALtoonz in Delhi
This computer aided learning through computer animations was launched in September 2005 in 200 schools of the Department of Education, Delhi. The main features of CALtoonz are content delivery through animated films (text is used only for definitions etc.), visual support, audio support, live interactive experimentation, all types of exercises in enough quantity for practice, question bank along with answers, more information provided extensively for each chapter to be based on need and educational content based games.
From the above description it can be concluded that Computer Aided Learning under SSA has been in the forefront to make teaching-learning in schools more interesting and effective. However as discussed in the preceding section, effective CAL in elementary school education depends on various social-cultural factors. One of the most significant factors is teachers’ attitude and perception. In order to further optimize learning environments in primary education, teachers should be aware of the potential of ICT to contribute to the power of learning environments and to stimulate pupil’s active and autonomous learning. Moreover, teachers’ skills with regard to the use of ICT as a means to support powerful learning environments should be fostered (Smeets 2005).
Williams et al (2000) claim that to be skilled and knowledgeable is the key to effective implementation of ICT in teaching and learning. They further add that training alone is unlikely to be effective in the development of ICT skills and knowledge, and enhanced use of ICT in schools. A more holistic approach is required comprising appropriate training, ready access to ICT resources, and ongoing support and advice to encourage progression beyond any formal training. The effect of technological innovativeness on class use of computers is more significant than personal factors such as age, gender, computer attitudes and computer experience. Teachers with a high degree of technological innovativeness also seemed to observe less organizational constraints in regards to the introduction of Computer Mediated Communication in school (Braak 2001). Informal ICT education, such as ‘just-in-time’ learning, is most influential. Furthermore, supportive and collaborative relationships among teachers, a commitment to pedagogically sound implementation of new technologies, and principals who encourage teachers to engage in their own learning are viewed as highly useful factors (Granger et al 2002).
To conclude, we can say that school structures, classroom dynamics and student behaviours should be in coordination with teacher belief for effective ICT integration in school education. Long-range planning for software developers and schools of education should include a vision that nurtures decision-making and development by teachers, rather than implementing systems solely from the level of policymakers.
Baylor, Amy L. & Donn Ritchie. 2002. What factors facilitate teacher skill, teacher morale, and perceived student learning in technology-using classrooms? Computers and Education, 39 (4), 395-414.
Braak, John van. 2001. Factors influencing the use of computer mediated communication by teachers in secondary schools. Computers and Education, 36 (1), 41-57.
Brummelhuis, A. F. and Tjeerd Plomp. 1994. Computers in primary and secondary education: The interest of an individual teacher or a school policy? Computers and Education, 22 (4), 291-299.
Chanlin, L. J., et al. 2006. Factors influencing technology integration in teaching: A Taiwanese perspectives. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 43 (1), 57-68.
Darby, J. 1992. The future of computers in teaching and learning. Computers and Education, 19 (2), 193-197.
Granger, G. A. et al. 2002. Factors contributing to teachers’ successful implementation of IT. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18 (4), 480-488.
Hung, David and Thiam Seng Koh. 2004. A Socio-Cultural View of Information Technology Integration in School Context. Educational Technology, March-April. 48-53.
Rahman N. and D. Jhingran. 8 July 2005. ICTs for elementary education in India –Prospects and Policy Perspectives.
Smeets, Ed. 2005. Does ICT contribute to powerful learning environments in primary education? Computers and Education, 44 (3), 343-355.
Sutherland, Rosamund. 2004. Designs for learning: ICT and knowledge in the classroom. Computers and Education, 43 (1-2), 5-16.
Wegeriff, R. 2004. The role of educational software as a support for teaching and learning conversations. Computers and Education, 43 (1-2), 179-191.
Williams, Dorothy., et al. 2000. Teachers and ICT: Current use and future needs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31 (4), 307-320.
Winnas, C. and Deorah Sardo Brown. 1992. Some factors affecting elementary teachers’ use of the computer. Computers and Education, 18 (4), 301-309.

* The author is a Research Scholar in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Mapping Cultural Diffusion: The Case of "Korean Wave" in North East India

Mapping Cultural Diffusion
The Case of ‘Korean Wave’ in North East India
Otojit Kshetrimayum [1]
Ningombam Victoria Chanu[2]

This article has been published in Narsimhan, Sushila and Kim Do Young (ed.). 2008. India and Korea: Bridging the Gaps. New Delhi: Manak Publications.

The Korean cultural wave has been spreading since the late 1990s, starting from the neighboring countries of China and Japan. The South East Asian countries were next to be hit by the Korean wave. This paper specifically tries to explore the nature of diffusion of Korean popular culture and also its impact on North East India, particularly Manipuri society through Korean satellite channel, music and movies. The study demonstrates that the Korean wave has been an emerging phenomenon in Manipur much before the Indian government’s initiative to popularize it. It assesses the possible factors responsible for this change. Cultural proximity is one of the key factors that have explained the successful diffusion of Korean wave in Manipur. The paper also illustrates the new socio-cultural dynamics that has evolved in recent years in Manipur. Moreover, it shows that Manipur has been experiencing Korean wave with more or less the same impact like other Asian societies.

Culture is a design for living. The culture of a society is a way of life of its members. Culture is a learned behaviour shared by and transmitted among the members of a group or society. According to E. B. Tylor, culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. The process of spread of cultural traits is termed as cultural diffusion. Cultural traits are the individual acts and objects, which constitute the overt expression of a culture.
Since 1990s a major course of cultural diffusion has been gaining ground in India. There has been a major makeover in the cultural life of the Indian society after its policies on liberalization and globalization. The North Eastern States of India are not an exception. The wave of globalization and information and communication technology revolution has also been felt in Manipur, one of the North Eastern States of India. In such a setting, this paper specifically tries to explore the nature of diffusion of Korean popular culture and also its impact on North East India, particularly Manipuri society through Korean satellite channel and movies. The study illustrates that a new wave of youth culture has surfaced in recent years in Manipur. Moreover, this paper shows that Manipur has been experiencing Korean wave with more or less the same impact like other Asian societies.
However, before we assess the case of Manipur, it is imperative that we comprehend the concept of Korean wave and its expansion in other parts of the world.

From jaebol to hallyu: An Overview
Korea first burst into the global imagination with its demonstration of industrial prowess. In one of the most astounding stories of economic development in recent times, Korea’s GNI (current US $) increased from $8 billion in 1970 to $922 billion in 2005, an increase of almost 115 times. Very quickly, Korean jaebol groups became household names all across the world. The first global hint of the softer cultural side of the Korean people emerged when Korean cultural exports became as prominent as Korean industrial exports, and everyone heard of the new word, hallyu. Very soon, the image of Korea shifted from jaebol to hallyu. However, hallyu also helped the jaebol (Madhuban, 2006).
Hallyu is a term coined by the Chinese media which literally means "Korean Wave". It is a collective term used to refer to the phenomenal growth of Korean popular culture encompassing everything from music, movies, drama to online games and the Korean cuisine.[3] Its roots are traceable to democratization, which kicked off with the South Korean elections in 1987 and the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
Korean wave was first introduced in the late 1990s in China referring to the popularity of Korean culture in foreign countries. It was initiated when the exported Korean TV dramas and remakes of pop music became popular in China and Hong Kong. From well-packaged television dramas to slick movies, from pop music to online games, South Korean companies and stars are increasingly defining what the disparate people in Asia watch, listen to and play. In Asia, ‘The Jewel in the Palace’ and ‘Winter Sonata’ is the must-see television shows. South Korea is cashing in on a marketing push that has made its soap operas and pop stars wildly popular across Asia. Following this trend, a number of Korean pop music singers and actors and actresses made their debut in neighboring countries and started gaining recognition. Since then, the Korean wave has been sweeping across countries in Asia, mainly in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam. Actors and actresses, such as Bae Yong-Joon, Choi Ji-woo, Kim Hee-sun, Won Bin, and Jang Dong-gun are now international stars, dominating the entertainment market in Asia.
South Korea is acting as a filter for Western values making them more palatable to other Asians. From clothes to hairstyles, music to television dramas, South Korea has been defining the tastes of many Asians for the past six years. Asian viewers describe Korean dramas as energetic and exciting while maintaining traditional values. The boom of Korean entertainment has increased demand for Korean products, and more people have become interested in Korean culture and the language.[4]
The Korean wave or Hallyu has been a blessing for Korea, its businesses, culture and country image. Since early 1999, Hallyu has become one of the biggest cultural phenomena across Asia Pacific. The booming South Korean presence on television and in the movies has led Asians to buy up South Korean goods and to travel to South Korea, traditionally not a popular tourist destination. So tremendous has the Hallyu effect been that it has contributed 0.2% of Korea's GDP in 2004, amounting to approximately USD 2 billion.[5]
Hallyu is now creating a new wave, facilitating active interchanges of popular culture among neighboring Asian countries. Of late, Western observers and the international press have expressed their wonder at how Korean popular culture has become the major commodity in the Asian market. Whereas Korean culture had long remained in the periphery of Northeast Asia, hallyu has offered the opportunity to make the country an active producer of culture. Hallyu has shown a reverse route from the past flow of cultural interchange in Northeast Asia; it has not copied or followed the footsteps of Western popular culture. It has shown its capability of "cultural creations" befitting Asian sentiment and values.[6] Thus, there has been rising torrent of Korean wave in East Asia, South East Asia and also slowly in South Asia. Korean wave has also been expanding its tide in other parts of the world other than Asia.

Korean Wave in Manipur: An Appraisal
Before we delve into the assessment of Korean wave in Manipur, let us briefly examine its nature in India in general. The phases of Korean wave in India can be divided into two. The first may be referred to as Korean economic wave. It came in India with the liberalization of Indian market in the beginning of 1990s. There was essentially growing association with the Korean companies like Hyundai, LG, Daewoo, and Samsung. In following years, these companies further expanded and diversified the range of their products and became household names in India. Now there is hardly any family, especially in urban India, which does not have products of these Korean companies. With the proposal of the POSCO, a steel giant of Korea, to investment around $12 billion in integrated steel plants at Paradip in Orissa, there have been speculations that there would be increased interests of Korean multinationals in India in coming years. The POSCO investment in India would be the largest ever foreign investment in India till date and the single largest overseas investment by a Korean company.[7]
The second phase may be termed as Korean cultural wave. It has reached the Indian shore very recently as compared to some of the other Asian countries. In May-June 2006, a Korean delegation visited India, as part of its efforts to spread the Korean Wave in this country. For the very first time in India the Korean drama “Emperor of the Sea" was introduced by DD 1 on 23rd July 2006. In another move to make Indian audiences aware about the Korean cultural richness, the MBC hit drama "A Jewel in the Palace" began to be aired on DD 1 from 24th September 2006. So, the introduction of Korean dramas is part of growing interest of Indians in not only Korean economic miracle but also in the cultural traits of Korea exemplified in various TV soap operas and music. There has been growing demand in India for not only Korean language but also Korean studies in general with the growth of Korean companies in India. It is significant to note that the two phases are complementary to each other.[8]
However, in the case of Manipur the nature of diffusion of the second phase of Korean wave in India gives a different picture. Manipur felt the tide of the emerging Korean wave more or less at the same time as experienced by other Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan etc. What made it possible? Many factors facilitate the foray of the phenomenon. Some of them may be discussed as follows:
Introduction of cable television network
The introduction of cable television network has played a significant role in the dissemination of culture to other societies. Manipur has experienced this process of cultural diffusion mainly through this medium. The Korean satellite channel Arirang is the harbinger of Korean wave in Manipur. Its popularity began largely due to the ban on Hindi satellite channels, which used to be the favourite channels of the Manipuris. They started to look for an alternative channel, which could give them wholesome entertainment. The search was fruitful. The popular Korean Channel, Arirang has been instrumental in bringing closer home the rich Korean culture, tradition and cuisine.
Ban on Hindi satellite channels and movies
Hindi films and Hindi television channels, except national channel DDTV, which is under the state control, were banned by one of the underground revolutionary organizations of Manipur in the year 2000. Then forth, it had been a gloomy scene for movie lovers here as cinema halls owners were forced to convert their halls into schools or shopping malls. No doubt, there has been a digital film revolution in Manipur to bridge this gap, it has been left to the films from Korea, especially South Korea and Thailand brought in through Myanmar border to win the hearts of the enthusiast crowd here with their youthful romances, thrillers and action-packed movies.
International border trade
India’s Look East Policy has opened new vistas in terms of trade between South East Asian countries and India through Manipur, an international border state with Myanmar. This has not only encouraged trade in various items but also smuggling of pirated music and movie CDs.

Cultural proximity: A key factor
The Korean success story represents the rebirth of an ancient and traditional Asian society. Its cultural roots can be traced back to both Indian and Chinese civilization (Mahbubani, 2006).[9] What made Korean popular culture boom in Manipur can be explained from the point of view of cultural proximity theory. The theory purports that media productions from culturally affiliated countries have greater reception than those from the culturally distanced countries. One of the most cited authors in current articles dealing with cultural proximity is J. D. Straubhaar. Cultural proximity is a characteristic that is predominately reflected in “nationally or locally produced material that is closer to and more reinforcing of traditional identities, based in regional, ethnic, dialect/language, religious, and other elements” (Straubhaar, 1991). [10] Moreover, he further argues that if the preference for national programming cannot be fulfilled, also products from the same region (e. g. Latin America for Mexico) can be relatively culturally proximate. Thus, the author defines different levels of cultural proximity.
Straubhaar describes shared ‘cultural linguistic markets’ (Straubhaar, Fuentes, Giraud & Campbell, 2002)[11] or ‘geocultural markets’ (Straubhaar, 2002)[12] as a premise for cultural proximity. Cultural linguistic markets “are unified by language. However, they go beyond language to include history, religion, ethnicity (in some cases) and culture in several senses: shared identity, gestures and nonverbal communication; what is considered funny or serious or even sacred; clothing styles; living patterns; climate influences an other relationships with the environment. Geocultural markets are often centered to a geographic region, but they have also been spread globally by colonization, slavery and migration.[13] Populations belonging to one market select television programs that are able to reflect the characteristics of this market.
Keeping in view of the above theoretical framework, the cultural proximity between Manipuri and Korean societies can be discerned. Manipur can trace its history back 2000 years. It is one of the eight North-Eastern states of India having a population of about 2.4 million. It has a territorial area of 22,327 sq. km out of which only one tenth is the plain areas (valley). Manipur is bounded on the east by Burma (Myanmar), on the west by the Cachar district of Assam, on the north by Nagaland and the Chin hills of Burma. Meiteilon (Manipuri), which belongs to Tibeto-Burman language family, is the state language. Manipuri society is not homogenous. The Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis are the major ethnic groups. The Meiteis constitute about 60 percent of the total population.
The Koreans are believed to be descendants of several Mongol tribes that migrated onto the Korean Peninsula from Central Asia (KOIS, 2003).[14] Meiteis are ethno-linguistically Tibeto-Burman family of Mongoloid stock (O. K. Singh, 1988; Kamei, 1991).[15] Sir Jhonstone also wrote, “Meiteis or Manipuris are a fine stalwart race descended from an Indo-Chinese stock, with some admixture of Aryan blood, derived from the successive wave of Aryan invaders that passed through the valley in pre-historic days (Johnstone, 1971: 97).”[16] Thus, the people of these two societies belong to the Mongoloid stock.
Clan communities that combined to form small town-states characterized ancient Korea. The town-states gradually united into tribal leagues with complex political structures, which eventually grew into kingdoms (KOIS, 2003: 16).[17] Various clan communities also typified Manipuri society. The various proto Meitei tribes of Manipur valley were politically and socially integrated into a political and social entity by the powerful Ningthouja (Mangang) kingdom founded by Pakhangba (33–154 AD) in the first century AD. There are now seven clans in Manipur, which are locally known as Yek-Salais.[18] These are Mangang, Luwang, Khuman, Moirang, Angom, Khabanganba and Sarang-Leishangthem (also called Chenglei) (Shah, 1994: 94).
The family name comes first in traditional Manipuri names like the Koreans. Manipuris akin to the Koreans do not refer to others by their given names except among very close friends. Even among siblings, the younger ones are not supposed to address their elders by given names but rather eche (eonmi in Korean), meaning elder sister, or eyamba (oppa in Korean), meaning elder brother (KOIS, 2003: 156-157).[19]
Sanamahism of Manipur is a counterpart of Shamanism in Korea. Sanamahism is a pre-Hindu religion of the Manipuris. It does not have a systematic structure but permeates into the daily lives of the people through folklore and customs. It incorporates a vast knowledge and philosophy about the creation of universe, earth, beings, and the life and death of people. The ritual functionaries of this religion are Maiba (priest) and Maibi (priestess). The maibas and maibis have a three–fold role, as priests and priestesses, givers of oracles, and preservers of oral tradition. In the first of these roles they offer gifts and bloodless sacrifices before the lais (deities) at various points during the festival. As preservers of the oral traditions it is their responsibility to memorize and repeat accurately the sacred lyrics of the festival, and to lead the congregational singing. The maibi’s role as medium between the living and the spiritual world is perhaps the most remarkable, and the most original and authentic. However, the main difference between the maibi and maiba is that the former is god-gifted and ordained completely while the latter is made and trained through his labour and research.
They are similar to shaman, Mudang in Korean. Both Sanamahism and Shamanism includes the worship of spirits that are believed to dwell in every object of the natural world, including rocks, trees, mountains and streams as well as celestial bodies. Till today, both of these religions have remained an underlying religion of the Manipuri and Korean people as well as vital aspect of their culture respectively (KOIS, 2003: 162-163).[20]
In Manipur, there is the close association of religion with music and dance. The distinctive approach to Manipuri culture is best seen in the fact that dance is religious and its aim a spiritual experience. Development of music and dance has been through religious festivals and daily activities of lives. Not only is dance a medium of worship and enjoyment, a door to the divine, but indispensable for ceremonies like birth of child, marriage, death, etc (M. Kirti Singh, 1988: 165).[21] Likewise, the traditional music of Korea is always a distinctive Korean voice, a voice that arises from the character of the Korean people, related to Korea’s climate and natural environment and also to religion and ideology.[22] For a better understanding of Korean music, one point that should not be omitted is that in music that is used for rituals, the cosmologic principle of the five natural elements and yin and yang play a prominent role (KTO, 2005: 26-28).[23] Maibi’s ritual dance is the foundation of most of the dance forms of Manipur like that of the shaman’s ritual dance in Korea.
There is also similar cultural trait in folk games. Ssireum in Korea or Mukna in Manipur is a traditional form of wrestling. It is a type of folk competition in which two players, holding to a satba (Korean) or khwangshet (Manipuri), a cloth tied around the waist and thigh, use their strength and various techniques to wrestle each other to the ground (KTO, 2005: 182) .[24]
The foregoing traditional cultural relations have shown that there is a cultural proximity between the Korean and Manipuri societies. The hallyu spirit is the spirit of traditional culture. Traditional culture, or cultural heritage, befits modern society and promises its future. Traditional culture manifests its intrinsic meaning as a source of power, which enables a connection between the past, present and future in the reality of daily life. Tradition is the strongest motivating power when creating a new culture.[25] This traditional cultural proximity has ultimately facilitated the immense popularity of Korean wave in Manipur along with the preceding three factors: introduction of cable television network; ban of Hindi satellite channels and movies and international border trade. In the next section, the socio-cultural implications of Korean wave in Manipur are discussed.

Socio-cultural implications
New movie cult
The ‘Hallyuwood’ movies are gradually replacing the Bollywood ones. Instead of current Bollywood favourites, it is movie names like “The Classic”, “Windstruck”, “You are My Sunshine”, “A Moment to Remember”, “Love so Divine”, “My Sassy Girl” etc., that are on the lips of the teenagers. The posters of Korean actors and actresses like Gweon Sang-woo, Cha Tae-hyun, Jeon Ji Hyun, Jung Da Bin and Song Seung Hun have replaced that of Shah Rukh Khan, John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra, Aishwarya Rai, and others. “Mostly young guys come to rent the Korean film CDs from us,” says Naoba, who is a salesman in a CD parlour at Imphal. “I like watching them as they are so cool,” says 15 year-old Marina, a Class IX student who loves watching Song Seung Hun. “It’s easy to understand the film as they’ve English subtitles,” she further adds.
Even the local cable network ISTV has been cashing in on this new flavour by telecasting these films through their network on prime time.
New youth culture
With the arrival of Arirang, its impact upon the Manipuris, especially among the youngsters has been felt in myriads of ways. For example, after watching the various Korean serials on Arirang, there is an earnest desire by the youngsters to imitate and copy everything from language, to food habit, to dress style, even the body language and some Korean manners. They have started using some common sentences used in the day to day life by the serial stars. For instance, anna saiyo (halo), sarange (I love you), watuke (what to do), waju waju (yes) etc. They begin to wish each other through Korean style. In fact, there is competition among the sibling about the knowledge of language competence. Before, hardly the youngsters knew about ‘chopsticks’, but now they have learnt to use it and some of them have food with it. Now, the traditional plate for having rice is being replaced by bowl. They have become so familiar with the Korean actors, actresses and singers that most of them know Kang-ta, Kang-Sang-Hyun, Baby Box, Boa, Jang- Nara, Che-in-Fio, Jyun-Sung etc. Some of them can even sing some of their favourite Korean singers’ songs. Rakesh, an undergraduate, says “There are many things in Korean cultural life that are shown in serials and movies, which we can relate with our own society”.
Like most of the Korean heroes, many youngsters in Manipur are growing their hair. By Ganji’s skirt, they mean the style of skirt worn by a Korean serial character called Ganji. By Kangta’s earring, they mean a particular earring worn by the singer Kangta. Among school kids and teenagers, Korean movie is one of their hot topics. Hindi movie had once occupied an immense area in the lives of the Manipuri cinegoers. However, with the ban of the Hindi movies, it is the Korean movie along with the Manipuri movie, which has filled the void. America was a dream for every Manipuri youth before, but now is slowly shifting towards Korea. “I want to learn Korean so that I can know more about their culture”, echoes Sanjana, a class XII student.
The youths have also started sleeping on the floor of their room instead of on the bed. They feel that it is so fashionable.
New business trends
These pirated films, which can be rented for as low as five rupees or ten rupees for a night are a rage with the audience. These movies come in special DVD formats consisting of around eight to nine movies in a DVD. “We make copies and either sell them or rent them out”, says Manglem, a video parlour owner at Imphal. However, there are also some dissident voices against the flooding of these movies asking for censorship. The markets at Imphal, generally known as Moreh (referring to one of the towns of Manipur in Indo-Myanmar border where most of the international trade takes place) markets, which deal with imported items from South East Asian countries through Myanmar, are flooded with pirated movie, television serial and music CDs mainly from Korea. There are also trends of making music videos of Manipuri songs using clippings from Korean movies and are then sold.
The conclusions that we can draw from the above evaluations are
Korean wave stormed Manipur more or less at the same time it started spreading to other Asian societies.
It was only on 23 July, 2006 that the first ever Korean drama was aired on India’s national television channel, DDTV. The Manipuri experience of the Korean popular culture was not under the direct initiative of the government. It is mainly through cable television network (Arirang) and pirated music and movie CDs that Korean cultural wave entrenches the heart of Manipuri society.
Factors that facilitate the foray of Korean wave in Manipur are introduction of cable television, ban on Hindi satellite channels and Hindi films and opening up of international border trade between India and South East Asian countries through Manipur.
The key factor that abets the popularity of Korean wave is the cultural proximity of Korean and Manipuri societies in terms of both being of Mongoloid stock; both societies being based on clan communities; sharing similar traditional religious structures in Sanamahism and Shamanism; similar streams of philosophy in traditional music and dance; and similar forms of folk games.
Not only the younger but also the older generations of Manipur share the same sentiments while watching hallyu dramas and films; and also identify with its dance and music. The younger generation in particular seeks to learn more about the Korean culture, traditions, language and fashion.
Hallyu can help to develop broader cultural interchange and cooperation.

The authors would like to thank Atom Sunil, G. Amarjit, A. Joy and Ph. Newton for their assistance in the writing of this article.

[1] The author is a Research scholar in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. His major interests are Sociology of Mass Communication, Industrial Sociology and Cultural Studies.
[2] The author teaches English in Zakir Husain College, Delhi University, India. Her major interests are English Language Teaching (ELT) and Cultural Studies.

[3] Korean_brands.asp
[5] Korean _brands.asp
[8] Ibid.
[9] Mahbubani, Kishore. Op. Cit. 5.
[10]Straubhaar, J. D. 1991. Beyond Media Imperialism: Assymetrical interdependence and cultural proximity. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 8, 39-59. See also Straubhaar, J., Campbell, C. & Cahoon, K. 2003. From national to regional cultures and television markets of NAFTA. Online document
[11]Straubhaar, J., Fuentes, M., Giraud, C. & Campbell, C. 2002. Refocusing form global to regional homogenization of television: Production and programming in the Latino U.S. Market, Mexico and Venezuela. Paper presented at the International Communication Association Annual Conference in Seoul, South Korea.
[12] Straubhaar, J. 2002. (Re)asserting national television and national identity against the global, regional and local levels of world television in J. M. Chan & B. T. McIntyre (Eds), In Search of Boundaries: Communication, Nation-States and Cultural Identities. Westport, Connecticut: Ablex Publishing.
[13] Ibid. p. 196.
[14] Facts about Korea. 2003. Korean Overseas Information Service. p.13.
[15] See O. K. Singh. 1988. ‘Aspects of Archaeology in Manipur’ in N. Sanajaoba (ed.). Manipur: Past and Present. Vol. 1. New Delhi: Mittal Publication. p. 69. & Kamei, Gangmumei. 1991. History of Manipur (Pre Colonial Period). Vol.1. New Delhi: National Publishing House. p. 21.
[16] Johnstone, J. 1971. My Experience in Manipur and Naga Hills. Delhi: Vivek Publishng House. p. 97.
[17] Facts about Korea. 2003. Korean Overseas Information Service. P. 16.
[18]These are Mangang, Luwang, Khuman, Moirang, Angom, Khabanganba and Sarang-Leishangthem (also called Chenglei). See Shah, R. Kumar. 1994. Valley Society of Manipur. Calcutta: Punthi Pustak. p. 94.
[19] Facts about Korea. 2003. Korean Overseas Information Service. p. 156-157.
[20] Facts about Korea. 2003. Korean Overseas Information Service. p. 162-163.
[21] M. Kirti Singh. 1988. Religion and Culture of Manipur. Delhi: Manas Publications.p. 165.
[22] Korean Cultural Insights. 2005. Korean Tourism Organization. p. 26.
[23] Ibid. p. 28.
[24] Ibid. p. 182.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Legend of a Leader: Hijam Irabot

"Now a time has come during which a mutual congregation and construction are the only vital questions. Let us forget our personal enmity, clan and national animosity and be prepared to love the nation as a whole." - Hijam Irabot, at the 2nd Session of NHMM.
This article blooms straight from the heart as a floral tribute to our great leader, a noble spirited, Hijam Irabot, who had burnt all his heart and soul for the glory of mankind in general and the downtrodden in particular. Words will never be able to give full justification for the immense contribution that he has given to us and nothing can erode it also.
The 30th of September 2007 is the 111th Birth Anniversary of Hijam Irabot. He was born in 1896 at Oinam Leikai near Pishumthong. He was the son of Hijam Iboongohal and Thambalngambi Devi. Their family condition was very poor. His father died when he was quite young. He received the affection of his aunt Sougaijam Ongbi Ibeton Devi. His mother also died untimely. He was married to Rajkumari Khomdonsana Devi, daughter of Maharaja Churachand Singh's elder brother Chandrahas Singh.
He started his schooling in Johnstone School. He studied here up to seventh class. In 1913, when he was only seventeen years, he went to Dacca with his friend Sougaijam Samarendra Singh for further studies. In Dacca, he could only study up to ninth class because he was forced to leave his study due to acute financial problems. In 1915, he went to Tripura and spent few months there. But when he came back to Manipur he found himself homeless. It was Maibam Samden of Wangkhei who gave shelter to Irabot.
He was recognized to be the guiding founder of the Bal Sangha, Scout and Chhatra Sanmeloni while he was still in the Johnstone School. He even ventured to launch strike against the misadministration of the teaching staff of the Johnstone School when one of his classmates was beaten and kicked in the presence of the other boys. It is still remembered to be the first strike in Manipur by the school-going students.
He was an enthusiast of literary works. His first endeavour was brought out in 1922, in the form of a hand written magazine called Meitei Chanu. He was the editor of this magazine. The magazine could not last long for want of reading public as well as financial support.
But it remained a pioneering work amongst the early publications of the Manipuri journals. Like his contemporaries, Irabot had a keen desire to produce some original literary works mainly to fill up the dearth in the curriculum of the High School studies. His book Saidem Seireng was prescribed as a textbook for the High School students of fifth class.
His literary attempt in novel writing was first seen in Yakairol, a monthly journal published by Dr. Ningthoujam Leiren when his first novel Mohini was published in a serialized form from August 1931. In 1933, he got his book printed under the title Dalil Amasung Darkhast Iba to bridge the gap between the Manipur State Darbar and the public.
He also acted as the general Secretary of the Manipur Sahitya Parishad for two terms i.e., 1937 and 1938. With the beginning of 1947, Irabot tried his hand in the field of journalism. The first issue of his weekly journal Anouba Jug was produced on Sunday, the 13th April 1947.
Irabot was a versatile actor and he acted in many dramatic performances during the early parts of the 1930s. Some of the plays in which he played active role were Nar Singh, Satee Khongnang, Areppa Marup, Devala Devi etc. Irabot was also a good artist and a painter. Apart from his sportsmanship he encouraged the traditional Manipuri style of 'self-defence' commonly known as Sat-jal. He was one of the founder members of the Manipur Sports Association.
On 1st April 1930, Maharaja Churachand Singh appointed Irabot a member of the Sadar Panchayat Court. He was given 25 paris of land, a salary of Rs. 25 per month and servants to attend to his wife. Although he had powers of a Second-class Magistrate in the Sadar Panchayat Court, he never encouraged bribery and corruption.
He looked into a kind of justice mostly in favour of the downtrodden and the poor peasants of the society. He was against the autocratic rule of the monarch under the shadow of the British. He wanted to end to the eternal clashing between the rich and the poor and the man-made concept of Master and Slave.
He used his position in order to come closer to the people, study their problems and organize them. He was strongly against the unlawful impositions connected with pothang, yairek-sentry, khewa, dolaireng, chandan senkhai, wakheirol etc. He also expressed his robust opposition to the atrocities meted out to the people by the Brahma Sabha.
He started his first mass campaign for the socio-economic uplift of the people and the result was the formation of the Nikhil Hindu Manipuri Mahasabha, mobilizing all the Manipuris inside and outside the state. The first session of the Mahasabha was held on 30th May 1934 at Imphal.
Maharaja Churachand Singh was its first President and he held this post till the third session of the Mahasabha. Its second session was held at Tarapur, Silchar, on 30th January 1936 and Irabot acted as the General Secretary. The third session took place at Mandalay, Burma on 2nd march 1937 in which Irabot was the Vice-President.
In the fourth session of the Mahasabha, held on 30th December 1938 at the Chinga Hill Maidan, Irabot was appointed as its President. In his Presidential speech, he proposed to abolish the Manipur State Darbar and an introduction of electoral system in Manipur.
The Manipur State Darbar subsequently declared the Mahasabha an illegal political party on 15th February 1939.
Irabot started to advocate an open rebellion against the high officials of the State Administration after his resignation from the Sadar Panchayat membership on 17th March 1939. On 7th January 1940, he immediately defected from the Mahasabha on matters regarding the non-agreement on physically supporting the Nupi-lan among its members.
On the very same day he organized a new party called the Manipur Praja Sammeloni. He was arrested from his house on 9th January 1940 and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for a speech on 7th January 1940 at the Police Line Bazar. He was previously kept at the Imphal jail but later shifted to Sylhet jail.
During his imprisonment in the Sylhet jail, he came across with many of the Congress and Communist leaders. He was very much influenced by the communist ideology and became an ardent believer in Marxism-Leninism.
Irabot was released from the Sylhet jail on 20th March 1943. But he was not permitted to enter Manipur. From Sylhet he went to Cachar where he plunged headlong into the peasant movement. He attended the first Party Congress of the Communist Party of India held at Bombay from 23rd May to 1st June 1943 as an observer.
Irabot was detained as a security prisoner in the Silchar District jail with effect from 15th September 1944 on the charge that he was a communist. He was released on 10th January 1945.after more than 5 years of political exile Irabot was given permission to stay in Manipur for a week i.e., from 2nd to 10th September, 1945.
His request for an extension of his stay in Manipur was denied. He led a very active life while he was in Assam. He worked in the Kishan Front of the Communist Party and was appointed General Secretary of the Cachar District Kishan Sabha and President of the Surma Valley Kishan Sabha.
Irabot was finally permitted to enter Manipur in March 1946. He organized a new party called the Manipur Praja Mandal in April 1946. He attended two sessions of the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha before he was expelled from the membership of the Working Committee of the Mahasabha on the charge of being a member of the Communist Party of India.
The Mahasabha sympathized with the aspirations of the Indian National Congress. After his resignation from the membership of the Mahasabha, he committed his political strategy and personal energy for the upliftment of the Manipur Praja Sammeloni. Manipur Praja Sangha was formed merging the two organizations, Manipur Praja Sammeloni and Manipur Praja Mandal to become a powerful political party in Manipur.
A meeting of all the political parties of Manipur was convened at the Aryan Theatre Hall on 4th October 1946 to form a single political party. When the appointment of representatives from the different parties was discussed, surprisingly, Irabot's name was particularly excluded from the list of the nominated members.
Many of the members of the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha refused to accept Irabot's membership because of his connection with the Communist Party. Irabot walked out of the Hall and other members of Manipur Praja Sangha and Manipur Krishak Sabha followed him.
The most notable outcome of this event was the abolition of the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha and the emergence of the Manipur State Congress. The Manipur Praja Sangha boycotted the process of forming the Constitution-Making Committee, which left the field open to the Congress only.
The election to the first Manipur State Assembly began on 11th June 1948 and continued up to 27th July 1948. The election was for a total seat of 53 seats. Irabot contested from Utlou constituency and defeated his nearest rival by 1070 votes.
A new twist came in the life of Irabot. On 21st September 1948, Irabot on behalf of the Manipur Praja Sangha and Manipur Krishak sabha called a meeting at the M.D.U. Hall to protest against the formation of Purbachal Pradesh, comprising of Manipur, Tripura, Cachar and Lushai Hills.
A scuffle took place at Pungdongbam when the Manipur Sate Police prevented a group of citizens who came to attend the meeting in which a police officer was killed on the spot. Irabot sensed that the State Government would hold him responsible for the incident and take up repressive measures against him. From that day he went underground.
The Manipur state council declared the Manipur Praja Sangha and Manipur Krishak Sabha unlawful. The state officials declined to constitute an Enquiry Committee to investigate the Pungdongbam incident. Irabot could not attend the first meeting of the Manipur Legislative Assembly held on 18th October 1948 because of the warrant against him.
The first Communist Party of Manipur was formed on 23rd August 1948. But it could not last long after the occurrence of Pungdongbam incident. An underground Communist Party of Manipur was again formed on 29th October 1948, under the Presidentship of Irabot.
He felt that although the democratic revolution had actually drawn closer in the state, the great mass of the peasantry was as exploited as ever. He was firmly convinced of the inexorableness of an armed struggle led by the peasants to bring about any meaningful changes in the society.
The state administration announced a reward of Rs. 1000 for the arrest of Irabot. There had been a strong anti-Communist drive in Manipur. The Manipur State Police, the Manipur Rifles and the Assam Rifles intensified their operations against the Communist Party, and many of its workers were arrested, tried and charged.
While on his way to Manipur from Burma, Irabot had been attacked with typhoid and succumbed to it on 26th September 1951. Manipur has lost its faithful son who courageously stood up to wipe out her tears, leaving his dream unfulfilled. Much water has been flowed down the Imphal river but to unearth a true and dedicated leader like Hijam Irabot stills remain a myth.
"Economically Manipur is a backward country…. It would be the right approach for all of us to fill up this great deficiency, and to bring advancement and prosperity in the country."-Hijam Irabot at the 1st Session of NHMM.

Vote to live or live to vote

This article was published in The Sangai Express.
Another game of musical chair is round the corner. The game is the forthcoming general election to the 14th Lok Sabha of Indian Parliament. Manipur host this sporting event on 20th and 26th April 2004. There are two groups: one group represents inner Manipur Parliamentary constituency while outer Manipur Parliamentary Constitution represents the other group. Players from each group have started filing their nominations and the real contestants will be known once the scrutiny is over. All the players are really trying their best to become skilled at timely delivering of the jingle of "false" promises to impress the judges (electorates).The winner from each group will represent Manipur and receive amenities of New Delhi as an award and moreover if luck clicks a ministerial berth in the cabinet.
Representative Parliamentary democracy calls for a system of choosing representatives of the people and for a suitable machinery adult franchise. Elections are complex events involving individual and collective decisions, which directly affect, and are affected by the total political and social process. They open up channel between the polity and the society, between the elites and the masses, between the individual and the government. They are major agencies of political socialization and political participation. But what Manipur is experiencing today is just the opposite social reality.
It is a matter of delight to note that under the universal adult franchise, the people of Manipur became the first to enjoy the fruits of democracy by electing the Assembly, the first of its kind so constituted, in the entire Indian sub-continent in 1948. But is it really a matter of pride taking into account the customary political mayhem in Manipur? Then Manipur was merged into the Indian Union in 1949 and became a Part C state of the Indian Constitution. Manipur was granted statehood in 1972.
In the general election to the Lok Sabha, Members of Parliament are elected. They act as the channel that links the people of the constituency/ state and the centre. They are elected to highlight the various socio-economic and cultural problems that the state is running through into national attention. But more than these roles, another important role, which they ought to perform, is to get to the bottom of these problems. Unfortunately, these are only utopian dogma to our representatives since they fail to deliver their role set. They could not live up to the promises they have made before the election. It is said promises are made to be broken; but for how long we have to linger on and tolerate? When will we be able to quench our thirst for an answer to our disconcerted plight?
If Democracy is about election and election is about participation then Manipur has achieved much. In Manipur, in the first general election to the Lok Sabha in 1952, there were 2, 98,553 electorates, of which 1, 47,864 and 1, 50,689 were men and women electorates respectively. The number of contesting candidates was 14. There were 383 polling stations. The percentage of total polled was 51.24. In the 13th Lok Sabha election in 1999, there were 13, 72,339 electorates, of which 6, 72,650 were men and 6, 99,689 were women. The number of contesting candidates was 18. There were 2001 polling stations. 65.67% of total votes were polled. The highest and lowest numbers of contesting candidates were recorded in the11th and 4th Lok Sabha with 28 and 10 candidates respectively. The 8th Lok Sabha recorded the highest percentage of votes polled with 85.79% while the 5th Lok Sabha recorded the lowest with 48.86%.
The general observation that we can infer from the last thirteen general elections in Manipur is that in all of them except in the 6th and 8th Lok Sabha elections, women electorates outnumbered men; the average number of contesting candidates is 14; and the average votes polled is 65.54% which is comparatively high. This high political participation may suggest that electorates of Manipur are highly politically socialized. But this hypothesis proves to be null. One supports a candidate who can be of some benefits in terms of bribing and bargaining for a job, loan, tenders, etc. A note, which depicts Gandhi, can easily buy a person's vote. He is happy with it. Another person is also happy with that. The manifest function is just to garner as much votes in exchange of Gandhis. But are we really conscious of its latent function? The past and present catastrophic political system is a vivid evidence for it. The representatives deliberately use their power and positions to realize their own interests ignoring the interest of the common people. They also don't have the sense of accountability. This has been going on for the last 52 years.
It would be important to locate here that there is a scheme called the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS). It was announced in the Parliament on 23 December 1993 to take up development works of capital nature in their respective constituencies. Under the scheme, each Member of Parliament may suggest to the Head of the District, works to the time of Rs. 2 crore per year to be taken up in his/her constituency. Elected members of Rajya Sabha may select works for implementation anywhere in the State from which they are elected. For Manipur, the fund released by Government of India under the scheme was Rs. 4, 215 Lakh, cost of works sanctioned by the respective District Head was Rs. 4, 146.2 Lakh and the expenditure incurred up to 31 March 2003 towards the implementation of works recommended by MPs of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha was Rs. 3, 628.7 Lakh. The percentage of utilization over release was 86.1%. Do we know where all this money has been utilized? We don't know where this money has been utilized. Don't we have the right to information? Yes we have the right to information. Do we ever try to find out the information? No, we never try to find out the information. This clearly shows our lack of responsibility and vigilance. We have the attitude that our task is done once the election is over. Our primary responsibility, on the contrary, begins only after the election is completed.
Election in Manipur has become a ritualistic act rather than a meaningful one. The political culture in Manipur is really disheartening. There is nothing in it we can learn, share and transmit to our future generation. Political system is a subsystem of society. There is a close link between polity and society. Election signifies the collective representation of the people. There is a need to realize and ignite our collective political consciousness. The pace of political evolution needs to be speeded up. What is really important for all of us is not a mere participation in elections but participation with responsibility. A strong pressure group is the need of the hour. The mother of all the malaise lies in the fact that we live to vote. This cliché has to be wiped out completely from the psyche of the people. The time has come that we vote to live an unwavering socio-economic, political and cultural life.

Lai Haraoba of Manipur