Chandel district (formerly known as Tengnoupal district) came into existence on May 13, 1974. The district lies in the south-eastern part of Manipur. It is about 64 km away from Imphal. According to the 2011 census, Chandel district has a population of 144,182 with a literacy rate of 70.85% (District Census 2011). The district is considered a gateway to Myanmar and other South-Asian countries because of its geographical proximity. The district is inhabited by several communities though majority are Naga tribes. The nine Naga tribes of Chandel district affiliated under Chandel Naga People’s Organization (CNPO) are Aimol, Anal, Chothe, Lamkang, Maring, Monsang, Moyon, Khoibu and Tarao.
The present article is focused on Chandel Naga UPSC aspirants from past to present. It is an attempt to explore the possible factors that are pulling Chandel Naga UPSC aspirants from clearing civil services exam as compared to other districts of Manipur. The topic itself is very subjective and can draw diverse and polarizing views from experts. The article is in no way to demean the potential and achievement of Chandel district in various other fields. However, when it comes to UPSC civil service examination, the results in the last many years speak for itself. The rare success stories can be counted on the finger-tips. What could be the ailing factors and what alternative measures could be envisaged to produce more possible number of successful candidates in future is open for discourse per se.
Senior Naga elders of Chandel district who have been conferred the civil services prestigious title for their achievements in their respective fields are few. To start with, Sumpi Jerol Anal is a retired IAS officer of Manipur civil service cadre of 1975 batch. John S. Shilshi is a retired IPS officer of Manipur police service cadre of 1987 batch. Tongsin Koshing Anal is a retired IPS officer of Manipur Police on the line of promotion from Sub-Inspector since 1980. Ng. Rustom Moyon is a retired IRS officer on the line of promotion from Inspector in Customs since 1984.
From the UPSC exam perspective, St. Luckson Anal was the first Naga from Chandel district to crack UPSC civil services examination in 1992 and had a brief stint with Indian Ordnance Factories Service (IOFS). He, however, resigned in 1997 due to personal reasons and took up Gospel ministry instead. Smt. Huten Mingam Anal cleared civil services in 1995 and had the option of Indian Police Service (IPS) & Indian Revenue Service (IRS) to which she opted the later. Currently, she is a Commissioner and designated as Dy. Director General of GST NE India (under Central Excise and Customs). Dilbung Robert Sheikington Lamkang cleared civil services in 2001 and opted for Indian Foreign Service (IFS). He is currently appointed as India’s Ambassador to Federal Republic of Ethiopia.
The factors that ail the Chandel Naga aspirants from cracking the UPSC-civil services are manifold. The socio-economic background, cultural, educational, and environmental and parent-community support are all inter-related influential factors. The educational system including teaching-learning practice in Chandel district headquarters and its periphery are comparatively at nascent stage. Keeping abreast with the changing times, the traditional method of rote-learning is still in vogue. Ironically giving education the topmost priority among other important aspects of life is quite lately seeing the light of the day. Such disoriented prioritisation of education receiving less-attention was also related with the socio-economic and political backwardness of the district for many years. The teaching community in most cases are rather old-fashioned or non-professional. The poor salary structure may be one crucial factor why educational institutions like schools are failing to garner well-qualified and experienced teachers on long term basis.
From the high school learning and board examination perspective, the atmosphere of entertaining subject related questions and discussion inside and outside the classroom are virtually absent. The learning system is more like one way traffic and teacher-student relationship in terms of interaction, discussion, participation is rather below average. The copying system in the examination appears like a seasonal cough which is communicable easily but results in a serious cancerous disease. Many students are becoming victim to this ugly malice. Generally speaking, such unfair means of getting qualified and attaining certificate are not helping students progress in real sense of the term. The concept of parents-will-buy-me-jobs undermines the novelty of dignity of labour among the youths in particular. This account is validated by hearsay and personal testimonial sources. In consideration of the above factors, students or aspirants coming from such educational background obviously have some disadvantages. Having said this, it is also important to reason that every person is unique in his/her own ways and gifted with different talents. It is important to understand that not every child or candidate is born to become an IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS officer or a medical doctor and engineers for that matter. To become a bureaucrat or doctor or scientist after all is not everyone’s cup of tea.
The foremost weakness that has come to light from personal interaction with the aspirants is the lack of sincerity and hard-work. Many candidates sincerely acknowledge that they do not work hard to their full potential. If this acknowledgement is true, the crux of the problem arguably lies here. Seriousness and hard-work after all are considered as the basic ingredient or tool for any success in life. In relation to this, it is also quite possible that the so called aspirants are not working wholeheartedly because they are not genuinely interested in civil services. However, they are giving the examination because of their parents or societal perception of the prestige associated with civil services. Such clash of interest is normally visible leading to trust deficit among the candidate and parents. In this regard, understanding the interest and potential of the student and providing early career counselling will help solve many career nuances later.
Financial constraint is another problem. The beauty of UPSC civil services lies in the fact that it does not differentiate the rich and the poor in giving the examination. However, the pre-requisite of the said examination demands a healthy financial support. Attending classes in reputed IAS coaching institutions has become quite common and sought after. IAS coaching institution provides guidance, strategies and techniques for preparing for the test. Nowadays, getting study materials from internet and other social media are also easily available. Technological advantage has made almost everything accessible in modern times. Nevertheless, there are a fair number of aspirants whose family income could not afford their ward such privileges and the financial requirement for the preparation. This is worth highlighting because, due to financial constraint, seriousness and focus of the aspirants often gets diverted. Under such circumstances, IAS dream steadily becomes secondary while how and where to earn money for self-reliance becomes primary concern invading one’s mind. This is one reality among many aspirants living within or outside the state. However, on the other hand, there are people who cleared the examination from poor family background with years of dedication and sacrifices also.
An examination like UPSC-civil service is a long process that cannot be achieved overnight. It may take a year, a decade or perhaps more than a decade. It is important, therefore, to start from the grass-root level. Top football clubs of the world like Manchester United and Barcelona have their own junior team under their umbrella where they rear young talented boys for induction into the main team in the years to come. Closer home, Tata Football Academy (TFA), Minerva Academy, Shillong Lajong Academy, Neroca FC, to mention just few have produced some of the brightest young talents in the country over the recent years. The point is, adopting such similar strategy and method at respective community level has better prospect in future. Reformation at the grassroots is the backbone for the development of any progressive society. The fact is, Chandel as a district inhabited by various Naga kindred communities wants to produce charismatic bureaucrats via such prestigious institution. However, community leaders and parents need to realize that financial stability of their aspirant or ward is very important. Financial support is not an end-in-itself. Proper upbringing, career guidance, constant interaction-encouragement and prayer-support are essential.
Modern education in Chandel came relatively late as compared to some other Naga districts in Manipur. The late arrival of Christian missionaries and education in Chandel by 1920s and 30s and the educational gap the current generation underwent in relation to their illiterate parents are worth incorporating. The second and third generation may perhaps be more equipped for greater challenges in future. This is worth mentioning because by 1920s and 30s while modern education was making its presence just felt in present Chandel context, it was all together a different story elsewhere. By 1917 during the First World War, about 2000 Labor Corps comprising mostly of Tangkhul and Mao Nagas and others have sailed outside India as British Labour Corps to France. Rev. William Pettigrew a Christian Baptist Missionary working among the Tangkhul Nagas since 1896 played a pivotal role in the recruitment process. Tuisem Ngakang in his article titled ‘Forgotten heroes of First World War I: The Tangkhul Naga Labour Corps’ mentioned that “such early exposure of the Tangkhul Nagas to the outside world was an eye opener which later on transforms the socio-economic, religious and political outlook of the Tangkhul Naga society in particular”. Whereas, in the context of Chandel, the religious and political awakening through Christianity and education among the kindred Naga tribes was much later phenomenon. One could arguably say of the post-Independence period. The point is such historical differences as far as the early arrival of Christianity and its educational impact are embedded in the narratives. Had Rev. William Pettigrew visited Chandel first and made the place its centre for his missionary and educational zeal, the story could have been perhaps altogether different today. And this is no lame excuse to say the least.
The onus is to look out for sincere, serious, dedicated and hard working aspirants and nurture and guide them on similar lines like the above clubs or academics. The shift from individual and family to community level approach is considered one of the best options. Such community support is envisaged cutting across different callings and walks of life. A special body/committee of concerned respective communities can look into this issue more seriously and start building from below or grassroots level with good foundation. Such strategy is opined specifically in the context of UPSC as an alternative mechanism in order to drive a sense of seriousness and more commitment as far as the aspirants focus towards the UPSC examination is concerned in the context already mentioned. The recent achievement of Dr. L. Angshim Dangshawa Maring (IAS, AIR-517, UPSC CSE 2018) on being the first Indian Administrative Service (IAS) among the Maring Naga community and also the first IAS in Chandel (now Tengnoupal district) should be a wake-up call and moral inspiration for many aspirants in coming years.
The writer formerly taught history at Miranda House, Delhi University. He was also formerly the Principal cum Administrator of Eklavya Model Residential School (EMRS), Chikim-Moreh.
W. Somie Monsang