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sc-arts-college-articleMajority of colleges in Manipur (fully funded or aided by State Government) are created as Arts and Science colleges and few of them also offer Commerce degree courses. They must be operated more innovatively to deliver development of the state (similar to the ways how professional degree colleges are managed and perceived). Their presence must bring about socio-economic impact locally around the towns wherein these colleges are located in Manipur. The course contents and delivery approach followed by these colleges must not blindly copy whatever and however is being taught elsewhere, and instead the overall goal must be for a ‘fit for purpose’ relevance to the local scenario. They need to be reoriented towards ‘applied studies’ approach so that ‘non-professional degree’ graduates produced in Manipur are empowered to become job creators within Manipur in their field of study. Special consideration must be also given to employment standards of staffs (i.e. academic and non-academics) and feasibility of sharing teaching infrastructures on external knowledge exchange activities.
Highlights of current Higher Education (HE) scenario in Manipur may include ‘negligible student numbers in colleges’, ‘non-employability of graduates out of colleges’, ‘unmotivated academics and lack of professional support staffs in colleges’, ‘poorly maintained infrastructures in colleges’, ‘negligible socio-economic impact because of a college’s presence in a region when compared to the public budget being spent annually on staff salaries and maintenance of the college’. It’s doubtful whether any official or Hon’ble Minister of Education in the Government of Manipur has analysed the principle questions such as ‘why a student has to go to a college/University after school education’, or ‘how attending a course in a local college add values to the students as compared to attending a distance learning course from a reputed institution elsewhere’, or ‘how skill training and vocational courses are aligned to degree courses so that graduates can experience both aspects during the three years degree course’ or ‘should colleges in Manipur run courses with contents as same as those running in other states of India’, or ‘should colleges be only about teaching students or be used for socio-economic development agenda’.
State Government seems to believe that ‘facilitating setup of few private universities in Manipur is the only and best way forward to improve HE scenario in Manipur’ and ‘new HE policy means focusing only on private university setup’. Such standalone policy without rectifying the core HE policies is rather likely to fuel further deterioration to social values and economy of Manipur; because the State Government has failed to recognise the ‘in-principle’ connection between ‘the presence of a local university/college’ and ‘the purpose of a local student to attend a local university/college’. The guiding doctrine for a new HE policy ought to be such that ‘the policy facilitates a youth to empower self to create own career even if the graduate is unable to be absorbed into the available job market (in Government services or Private Company jobs) due to whatever reasons after their graduation from the HE institutions’.
The foremost essential action for Government of Manipur to revive dying non-professional degree colleges in Manipur and aspire for a new HE scenario which is fit for the 21st century is to restructure ‘Department of University and Higher Education’ towards new roles and responsibilities, along with bringing changes in certain areas of HE policies as explained in this paper. Such a suggestion is because of the fact that overall operational control of these colleges (incl. topics of staffs employment, infrastructure management, Higher Education policies, student admissions, student welfare measures) are under this department in the Government of Manipur, while the role of Manipur University (a Central University under Ministry of Human Resource Development) over these colleges is limited only to awarding of degree certificates by holding examinations because of their affiliation to the university.
A 21st Century’s HE policy needs to consider various aspects such as: ‘employment norm of academic staffs to be practice-led researcher/tutor’, ‘expanding roles and accountability of a College Principal’, ‘administrative staffs to support non-academic responsibilities professionally at colleges (esp. estates and socio-economic impact agenda)’, ‘bonus/reward schemes and additional project funding pots to motivate/increase contribution by academics’, ‘centralised web-based learning course materials (video, audio, text) accessible to students via mobile or online’, ‘modular classrooms for dual-use purposes (i.e. teaching as well as external knowledge exchange) and flexibility to use joint learning infrastructures among colleges’, ‘accessibility of teaching staffs by students from other colleges’, ‘local job creation and economic development’, ‘involvement of local authorities in planning/delivering HE activities’. HE as a sector doesn’t work in silo and aligning HE policies to the agendas of other ministries (such as commerce and industries, social welfare, science and technology, tourism) are essential. HE institutions serve only as temporary transit point for youths from their homes to the real society/industry.
In order to capture how HE institutions are delivering towards their intended mandates, a systematic measurement framework ought to be created (e.g. in UK, Teaching Excellence Framework, Research Excellence Framework, Knowledge Exchange Framework are used). Such an approach will help in measuring ‘teaching/learning outputs by students at each college, whether fit for purpose later in the society/industry’, ‘research/knowledge-exchange activities by academics and support staffs at each college’, ‘utilisation of college/university assets for local economies’, ‘alignment with NAAC and NIRF exercises conducted by Central Government authorities’, ‘effectiveness of programmes created for own agenda by other ministries to compliment HE agenda at each college/university’, etc.
With the growth of IT/Internet, and availability of hi-tech mobile devices at the disposal of students, a new infrastructural approach of providing learning system is necessary. The role of academics in colleges must be changed from ‘teaching’ to ‘supporting’. Infrastructures of colleges must be designed for dual usage by staffs/students as well as nearby public users. Various courses and infrastructures planned under the agendas of other skills training institutes, ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), and professional colleges must align with the plans of nearby HE institutions. Staff support Intranet Portals should be made available (incl. new ‘Train the Trainer’ type courses). Also, it’s time to update roles and responsibilities of a College Principal by adding new accountabilities on socio-economic impact agenda to the local region via effective utilisation of available assets of the respective colleges and contribution by academic/non-academic staffs. Establishment of new local advisory boards to colleges is essential to facilitate such impact agenda with local governing Municipal councils.
Curriculum design and delivery structure may consider including ‘research project submission as form of examination’, ‘case-study based teaching’, ‘research paper on local industry/sector professionals as coursework test’, ‘non-tutor-led course materials for self-study’, ‘interventional add-on modules on skills trainings (e.g. centrally managed ‘web-based/video-audio’ courses and subsidised crash courses at some physical centres)’, ‘web-based intranet for all students and tutors similar to web-based distance learning systems’. One time investment may be necessary on the development of course materials and teaching/learning delivery system (e.g. ‘Blackboard’ software). Fixed dates on academic semesters should be maintained annually for all relevant activities at each colleges irrespective of any potential disruptive issues. Clarity of information necessary for use by students or parents of students or staffs should be maintained by the Department of University and Higher Education through dedicatedly designed Intranets and web-portals.
Thus, an overhaul of HE policy is necessary to make the current colleges in Manipur (delivering Arts, Sciences, and Commerce courses) relevant to local graduates. Otherwise, neither students are benefiting nor local towns where these colleges are located. Yet, huge expense is going out every year from the state budget to pay salaries of the staffs and maintenance of college assets without making much return to the society.
About the Author:
Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur.
For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com
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Among various measures, the idea of transforming ‘local colleges’ in Manipur into ‘Innovation Centres’ may be the most effective approach to fuel rapid socio-economic growth of ‘people and place’ across towns of Manipur in 5-10 years timeframe through facilitating collective participation of local people.

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Names of towns/villages in Manipur wherein Higher Education institutions are located

A strong reasoning behind the idea is the possibility of utilising strategically located college campuses (of approximately 88 colleges) scattered across the geography of Manipur state in various towns as an open platform for ‘Community and Business Engagement’ among industry professionals (who are natives of the nearby locality but living outside Manipur in various cities of India and abroad), academics and students of the respective colleges, local NGOs and government officials nearby the colleges. College campuses maybe considered as ‘Knowledge Zones’ or a place where ideas and locally applicable innovations can be freely exchanged without fear in a ‘non-bureaucratic and non-corporate’ work-environment. Measures related to improving academic (teaching & learning) environment of the local colleges have been kept aside for another article. This article intends to present new measures of maximizing utilization percentage of currently available infrastructure (i.e. classrooms and estates) and (teaching and non-teaching) staffs at colleges in Manipur for an add-on impact to local people around the colleges socio-economically, with less/minimum impact on the delivery of ongoing academic schedules.

It is a well-known fact that most colleges in Manipur in the past decade don’t conduct academic classes regularly and have also a very low number of students. College infrastructures (including services of staffs) seemed highly under-utilized with unclear benefits to the local economy and irregular usage of college facilities caused equipment/buildings to deteriorate quickly due to poor supervision. In such scenario, the question does arises – what purpose does our colleges in Manipur serve to the local economy and social wellbeing, apart from the fact that these colleges provide employment to few staffs and higher education to a tiny number of local teenagers with negligible scope of getting a job or a bright career opportunity on their graduation. Without a doubt, colleges in Manipur may be comparable to ‘white elephants’ to the economy of Manipur under the current socio-economic scenario. Then, the next reasonable question arises – ‘how can we increase the benefits and good impact of having a college campus in our local community and nearby town’.

 

The intent to impart higher education to young students of Manipur through local colleges may be combined with the vision of state government to bring about socio-economic development of local towns. For realising this expectation, the state government would need to create a dedicated job position of KE (Knowledge Exchange) professional at each college (through an initial funding from state govt budget or one time financial assistance from central government). The key responsibilities of the KE professional may include (1) creation of external income earning capacity of the college through efficient utilisation of college infrastructure, (2) realisation of ‘brain gain’ to local towns around the college campus by inviting Manipuri professionals (from the nearby towns but living outside Manipur state or abroad) for KE activities and enabling effective engagement with the local community through hosting academic and business events, and (3) building strong relationship with global funders and corporate firms to bring in external incomes (such as sponsorships and partnerships) within the predefined knowledge domains of the college. Management of KE activities are best assigned to KE professionals (as full-time job role) rather than being considered as add-on role to the current responsibilities of academic staffs in colleges. The aim of such approach is to make the entire process sustainable in due course of time so that expenses of KE professional and relevant KE activities can be paid out of the income earned through commercial exploitation of resources at the college campuses.

 

In case, the state government is keen to explore feasibility of such proposal as mentioned above and in rest of this article, it should consider hiring KE/innovation consultants to structure an implementable plan that suits the local scenarios of Manipur. Such similar approaches are already implemented in various developed countries such as UK, wherein local municipal council and various government departments work in coordination with higher education institutions to rejuvinate socio-economic growth of the local towns. This impact of having a college/university in a town is in addition to providing employment to few academic and support staffs, and giving graduate education to the local youths.

 

State government may consider utilising part of college campuses to engage local SMEs and Self-Help-Groups for delivery of local enterprise support services (i.e. fund access and professional advice) by having ‘hot-desk information offices’ representing the officials from Sub-Divisional office (SDO/SDC) or District Collector (DC/DM) office. Such an approach would bring accessibility of business support services and funding opportunities closer to the target audiences of local entrepreneurs and future graduate entrepreneurs at the college campuses. Such hot-desk information offices attached to the college campuses may help transforming the college to be a vibrant environment filled with local people and industry professionals. This transformation will provide psychological boost to the thought process of students to aspire being a budding entrepreneur in the local town.

 

Academically relevant external projects (funded by government or various funding organisations) and socio-economically relevant services (such as training courses for local SMEs and not-for-profit organisations) can be planned for delivery at the college campuses to increase presence of local community in the college campus. Management of such operations are to be conducted by delegating the activities to a KE professional under a clear strategy, so that in course of time, the income earned through the external oriented services can meet the operational expenses (incl. salary of the KE professional). Various assets of the college campus such as swimming pool, playgound, library, café, labs, classrooms, auditoriums may be let out during weekends and out of working hours slots in order to generate revenue income for the college. Academic staffs of the college may also contribute appropriately to the planned KE activities based on their personal interest as well as academic interest. The budget management (both income earning and expense planning) of the KE activities must be with the KE professional in order to assign proper accountability of the funds. Conducting socio-cultural events by local NGOs ought to be encouraged at the college campus, so that vibrant environment of the college campus can be maintained due to visit of external audiences. Moreover, catering and other trade items can be sold while hosting local events within the college campuses. Organising trade and technology events through the KE professional can also infuse innovative ideas for discussion among the students and academics of the college.

 

A dedicated knowledge exchange web-portal may be created to ease info sharing to various stakeholders (i.e. government departments, industry professionals, students, academics, local NGOs and municipal councils) in order to help successful delivery of the overal KE strategy at various college campuses in Manipur. The web-portal may include basic and advanced training materials for facilitating knowledge exchange related services by KE professionals and also relevant resources for external customers accessible through payment of appropriate service fees. Having a clear KE strategy can help motivating college staffs to participate in KE activities conducted at their college campuses. KE events will attract students to college campuses for learning real world knowledge in addition to attending academic classes for their degree courses. Moreover, such an approach will enable creation of an ecosystem for local innovation at the college campuses (instead of leaving college campuses defunct and under-utilised).

 

Capacity building of local human capital is one of the most essential ingredients of enabling socio-economic development of a state. Making Manipur a prosperous socio-economically developed state is the dream of many youths and senior citizens of Manipur (incl. our ‘self-proclaimed’ politicians). Transforming colleges at various towns of Manipur can help in creating the necessary quantity and quality of capable human resources (across villages/towns) which Manipur desparately needs. This approach will also allow the state government to combine developmental intitiatives at various towns of Manipur with the intent to provide higher education facilities in those towns by allocating the annual budget efficiently.

 

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Newspaper report says ‘the budget for organising Sangai Festivel 2017 was Rs. 7 (seven) crores’. Since the amount spent for the festival was huge and the fund was allocated from public money, it does make sense for any Indian citizen to ask the simple query – ‘Is Rs. 7 crores worth spending on the Sangai festival annually, and what does Manipur’s public gain or lose by having the festival?’ The best approach to answer this question is through having ‘a Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI) framework tool’ that provides an objective and scientific analysis of the impact of each edition of the Sangai Festival. This approach will ensure every Indian citizen (esp. a Manipuri resident) to have a holistic perspective on the purpose of having the ‘Sangai Festival’ without the influence of any ‘political rhetoric’ and ‘biased views’ (which may been created because of the interests of few personals or groups associated with organizing the festival).

SangaiFestival_2017

As a baseline, analysis of the impact study can be done under two scenarios – ‘with the festival’ and ‘without the festival’. In simple terms, these two scenarios means ‘Where could have we spent that Rs. 7 crores in case we didn’t have the festival and still achieve similar/better outcomes for Manipur’s public by having another project/programme instead?’ or ‘How best was Rs. 7 crores spent by conducting which specific activities as part of the festival, and how far those activities enabled realizing the essential impact factors as envisaged under overall objectives of having the festival?’. The word ‘tourism’, as per the Oxford’s English Dictionary, means ‘the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest’, and the specialized agency of the United Nations ‘World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) professes the simple definition of ‘sustainable tourism’ as ‘the tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities’. These two meanings highlight that tourism involves ‘management of certain activities involving money in a commercial setting’ and tourism activities ought to be made ‘sustainable’ for long term benefits especially for the local community’.

Compared to last editions of the Sangai Festival, there are few changes in the approach of how the Sangai Festival 2017 was organized, such as ‘new events at more venues (incl. those outside the usual venues within the Imphal municipal areas)’, ‘The SangaiRun to promote Loktak Lake and the Keibul Lamjao National Park’, ‘efficient usage of promotional means (incl. YouTube videos, dedicated websites, online ticketing system, publication on national print media, discussion on radio as well as TV showrooms, special invites to national and international delegates), ‘having the North East Development Summit at Imphal during the Sangai festival period and inviting the Hon’ble President of India to open the Summit’s ceremony’. It was laudable gesture that Her Excellency ‘the Governor of Manipur’ also adorned dress costumes of various ethnic groups in Manipur on various Sangai Festival events and hold heartedly championed those events. Visitors from outside Manipur (nationally and internationally) and local visitors to the event venues gave positive feedbacks about the activities of the Sangai Festival 2017 as well as possible improvements to the festival in future and limitations of the current 2017 festival. At the closing phase of the 2017 festival, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur also made an announcement regarding the intent of including more venues located in hill districts in the next Sangai Festival 2018 (such as cherry blossoms and flower festivals of Mao in Senapati district).

The Manipur State Government ought to engage a consultancy firm/institution that specializes in delivering impact studies of major projects/programmes by deploying economic and social research methodologies. Similar examples of such impact study report can be availed by searching ‘Olympic Games Impact Study’ on ‘Google Search engine’ (e.g. Pre-Games Report and Post-Games Report from the Economic & Social Research Council, UK). Such impact study report shows ingredients of what an impact study framework tool comprises. For a sustainable Tourism in Manipur, the Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI) framework tool ought to be developed by identifying ‘pre-defined impact indicators’ spread across three internationally recognized areas of sustainable development – economic, socio-cultural and environmental. These indicators can be categorized into mandatory and optional, and each indicator ought to have a context (i.e. the area/topic of measurement) and an event indicator (i.e. the trigger / measuring factor). The period to be considered for measuring impact can be of three phases: Pre-Event (maybe covering ‘1 to 6’ months prior to the particular Sangai Festival), During-the-Event, and the Post-Event (maybe covering ‘1 to 6’ months after the particular Sangai Festival), and the duration of each phase may be considered appropriately.

Few possible indicators of the SFI under the economic agenda may be ‘employment by economic activity related to the festival’, ‘Tourist stay in private guest houses, and accommodation occupancy rate in local hotels’, ‘traffic at airport and bus/taxi terminals’, ‘size and number of not-for-profit/companies involved in the festival’, ‘nature of public spending during the festival and debts/expenses incurred by the State Government as part of the festival’, and ‘income earning of local people (incl. Emas/mothers at Keithels/markets) and those in the non-organized sectors’. Possible indicators of the SFI under the environment agenda may be ‘vehicle air pollution and surge of vehicle traffic due to the festival’, ‘solid waste disposal and public hygiene quality’, ‘utilization of local community and private resources (incl. ‘community halls, or equipment for meetings or leisure centers’ for a hiring fee)’, ‘utilization of Government owned public resources (incl. vehicles, auditoriums)’. The Socio-cultural agenda for the SFI may include indicators such as ‘poverty and social upliftment because of the festival’, ‘crime rates during the festival’, ‘volunteers to the festival’, ‘opinion polls on the festival’, ‘participation of local, national and foreign tourists’. Such indicators can be pre-designed for the current Sangai Festival and be improved (i.e. deleted/inserted) based on inputs from future festivals. By having a scoring system which is factually based on relevant data, we can have a holistic perspective of whether a particular Sangai Festival has been successful and up to what extent it has achieved the intended target points on each pre-defined indicator.

The Sangai Festival ought to bring about sustainable socio-economic development for the people of Manipur (esp. bringing positive impact to those at the bottom of the Pyramid in terms of economic parity and social inclusion). Infrastructures created as part of the Sangai Festival ought to be of multipurpose utility beyond the festival period by public and the event venues may be planned across various districts of Manipur State so as to leave behind valuable infrastructures for the local communities after the conclusion of the Sangai Festival of a particular year. This approach will support the socio-economic development agenda of the State Government, in addition to the intended tourism development agenda through the Sangai Festival. The Sangai Festival ought to have provisions of including the possible services of local population (i.e. private individuals as well as local clubs) so as to bring about socio-economic benefits to the local community in addition to those officially sub-contracted business people and corporate firms for the Sangai Festival. Active participation of local transport associations (of buses, wingers, auto-rickshaws) and private tour operators (incl. event organizers of various cultural and sports activities) ought to be provisioned in the plan for the Sangai Festival so that the ultimate benefits will be passed on to the public at large instead of few contractors associated to the Sangai Festival. What really is essential regarding the hoisting of such ‘Sangai Festival’ is to have an absolute clarity of ‘what the overall objectives are and the extent of festival’s scope’, because it is not a common sense approach to spend the large sum of Rs 7 crores to entertain ourselves for few days at the opportunity cost of investing the same amount on other valuable ventures such as ‘creating new coal-tarred roads, or new hospitals, or new school/college buildings, or new local micro-financing funds for uplifting poverty at villages’.

Indeed, the Sangai Festival can act as the platform for Manipuris (currently residing within Manipur and at various global cities) to get together and contribute towards the socio-economic development of the villages (and local communities) within Manipur, if we appropriately plan and execute the festival with a clear purpose to justify all possible opportunity costs. Otherwise, the festival will better serve the interest of few contractors and government officials (incl. ministers/MLAs) as compared to public at large in Manipur. Thus, it is essential that the state government creates an effective ‘Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI)’ framework tool sooner than later so that there is clarity and transparency in the purpose of conducting the annual Sangai Festival by spending large sum of public money which could been spent on other relevant projects for the people of Manipur.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur. For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

 

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smart-cityStarting from the basic principle is always sensible for any strategic planning process, as it helps to come up with directional guidance on how to approach issues when there’s chaotic abundance of info and wish lists to action on. What does it mean when we say the term ‘Smart City’? Before trying to find answers, it’s recommended to ask further follow-on questions to seek clarity on the topic; such as ‘whose the Smart City is for?’, ‘how much budget is for and given by whom to be spent by when?’, ‘Is the scope of the project only on infrastructure development, or extend to realignment of public/private administrative support services?’, ‘Is the focus of overall exercise only on new constructions to offer new services, or extends to restructuring of available resources for cost saving and effectiveness?’, ‘what priority problems and wish lists are to be addressed within the scope as compared to aiming for everything?’. Collating a list of such strategic questions ought to be the first step to define scope for ‘Smart City’ project and then creating a table of checklist to guide the overall activities of finding appropriate operationally implementable solutions. If we imagine nothing exist in the first place, we can see ‘people’ and ‘means of transport’ as the base ingredients in any geographical location. In short, ‘Smart City’ project maybe considered as means to facilitate the flow of people and vehicles in the city.

From the infrastructural and people’s commuting aspect, ‘Imphal Municipal Region (IMR)’ is the only city zone in the entire Manipur state wherein the majority of travel and resource utilization seem to be occurring. So, it may make sense to aim to transform IMR into a smart city, by considering how people from other towns/villages commute/correlate to IMR for their ease of access and convenience. Public Transport System (PTS) ought to be the first priority theme in this smart city project in two levels of focus – (1) for within the city commuting, (2) for connectivity to other connected towns/villages. Through this ‘Smart City project for Imphal’, we can also enable growth and development opportunities in other towns/villages; thereby delivering a better ‘value of money’ impact. PTS may be considered as the motherboard wherein all the other projects are plugged into making the entire device-setup alive and functioning appropriately. Accordingly, allocation of fund in the ‘Imphal Smart City’ project budget ought to be ‘60% to PTS and 40% to individual mini-projects’ as a rule of thumb.

 

After having conducted a population count in each zone within the Imphal Municipal area and also devising a simulated commuting model for a weekly-slot throughout a year cycle, we can come up with a reasonable understanding of how the Imphal city is functioning on a holistic view. We can identify what private / public service facility already exists at which spot on the map of Imphal city; such as hospitals, schools/colleges, Govt offices, police stations, fire services, markets, airport, upcoming train station, courts, public venues. State government ought to form a company or corporation to operate a public transport service meant ‘for within the IMR’. This initiative will enable (1) reduction in use of small private vehicles within the city limits, (2) reduction in pollution and noise limits, (3) ease of access to every corners of the city and 24×7 means of travel within the city limits through PTS. Feasibility study of how the ‘commuting model’ may look like for ‘within the city’ may be conducted by hiring specialist town planners and also referring to other small and large cities in the world. Due-attention to the nature of commercial transport services within the PTS needs to be understood too; such as routes of goods carrying trucks, crossover on the ‘transport services to carry goods’ meant for the purpose of large-scale business and individual family usages.

 

Progress of a city will be known ‘not by the number of private vehicles run by individuals in the city, but by the number of individuals using public transport services’. After having evaluated on the simulated commuting computer model, road networks within the Imphal city need to be reorganized; such as – (1) effective usage of ‘semi-low-floor’ buses funded earlier under JnNURN fund from central Govt, (2) effective traffic flow routes for various types of vehicles within the City, with priority focus to emergency services and ‘individual shoppers and sellers at Imphal markets’, (3) congestion/emission charge levied to private vehicles within the Imphal market areas, (4) 24×7 transport facilities to every spots within the city map and thereby creating appropriate traffic control-light systems, bus stands and terminals, solar-powered lighting on public roads, emergency phone-booth and medical care spots on the routes, waste disposal bins and toilets on the routes, (5) mandatory process in place to plan any route diversion / roadblocks prior to any upcoming Govt/public events or after any sudden accidents/constructions on the route, and thereby appropriate advertisement of roadblocks (on social media, newspapers, city-travel apps).

 

To be precise, Imphal City is more important to ‘people living in other villages/towns’ of Manipur than those living within the Imphal Municipal Region (IMR); and the main reason being non-availability / defunct nature of modern means of livelihood elsewhere within Manipur State. Many individuals from other towns/villages commute to IMR for accessing almost every aspect of modern means of livelihood (e.g. hospitals, schools/college, Govt offices, and markets). On the ‘Smart City project for Imphal’, the planners ought to consider how best can the drop-in and drop-out points wherein ‘people, vehicles and access demand for modern livelihood services from other villages/towns connected to IMR’ can be addressed effectively. Priority focus of state Govt needs to be more on improving road infrastructure in other village/towns, so that people can at least commute to IMR daily. State Govt ought to create another dedicated company or corporation to deal with transport services ‘in and out of Imphal city’; since purpose and needs of such transport services are distinctively different from that of ‘within Imphal city’ focus. Private parties (i.e. owners and associations of buses, taxis, auto rickshaw) must be partnered for delivery of this portion of public transport system on a 24×7 basis, since state Govt may not have sufficient manpower and financial resources to provide transport services to the last-mile connectivity concept (outside the IMR limits).

 

Making the best appropriate usage of available fund in the most simplified approach for larger benefit of people in Manipur is the most reasonable idea on ‘Imphal Smart City’ project. Also, how other funding schemes (of state and central governments) can be channelized to this project can be evaluated. Just trying to copy solutions used in other cities of the world (on this concept of ‘smart city’) will make less sense for us, unless we start to focus first on the basic needs for our local scenarios first. The demography and income/knowledge level of people living in Manipur is different from other cities of the world, and we have our own ways of living and making a living. We should aim to avoid new failure cases of various large scale infrastructural projects in Manipur state (e.g. similar to ‘Flyover construction at Imphal City’). Before reinventing new wheels, let’s check what/how we can make use of the available resources in a more effective and efficient ways. Also, let’s aim first to invest the new fund for smart city project to streamline the already available service delivery systems, and then, let’s recreate something totally new, only in case of a genuine need to overhaul the system/structure portion on its entirety. Thus, let’s think of the people first and make the city, rather than aiming to create the city first and fit the people later.

 

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

 

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Realities of life start to bite us when we are around 25-35yrs of age. We begin to look at our lives with more seriousness about the past and the future. By now, we acknowledge two facts – (1) Money (through a salaried job or an earning source) is crucial for living. Having a good philosophy for humanity and a non-income earning hobby aren’t enough in life. (2) Our parents are not young anymore and we need to offer our support at their old age. This is more important because, we need act as role models to our kids (or future kids) by showing care and love for parents. Thus, we are struck by the most challenging dilemma around 25-35yrs of age – ‘shall I return back to Manipur, but how?’returning_home_airport_01In search of opportunities to study in prestigious colleges/universities and work in jobs after our studies, we have left Manipur during our teenage period. By the age of 22-35yrs, we are working in a relevant professional career and residing at a developed city of India outside Manipur state or in a foreign country. Also, we are likely to been married by then and have already started a small family with own kids.

One popular option used by most non-resident Manipuris to return back to Manipur (irrespective of current profession or years of job experiences) is to try for Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive (MCSCC) exam conducted by Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC). It’s not sure whether most MCSCC exam aspirants actually know what type of work or life style one has to live once selected in that exam and begin to serve in various administrative departments of the Manipur government. Also, it’s not sure what happens to those years of work experiences, technical skills acquired and professional education undertaken in the past by those non-resident Manipuris after becoming high ranking administrative officers. Maybe, MCSCC exam is the most targeted choice because of the status of MCS/MPS officials in society and the income earning possibilities within the state among available jobs.

Another popular option used by non-resident Manipuris (with an average academic, especially among boys) is to try for a job in Manipur Police services (such as Assistant Sub-Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Indian Reserve Battalion Sepoy, Commando Sepoy). Prior job experiences and graduation degree of individuals are also less relevant while applying to the services of Police. What most educated Manipuris living outside Manipur expect when shifting to Manipur is a reasonable salary from a job (or an income source) and maintaining a reasonable social status within Manipur. Also, most non-resident Manipuris love to aim for the job of a teacher in school or a lecturer in college in Manipur. Thus, many non-resident Manipuris depends on government provided jobs to return back to Manipur and many of us haven’t yet tried to explore about any other options to come back to Manipur.

Some of the reasons why most non-resident Manipuris could not realize their wish to return back to Manipur are – (1) non-availability of directly similar jobs in their professions in Manipur, (2) availability of few jobs in some relevant professions, but needing to bribe officials and ministers to get those jobs, (3) being too late in one’s age to shift to Manipur (because of having grownup kids who were already adjusted to the outside social environments, or inability to just leave the jobs as monthly salaries fulfilled family maintenance, or their parents had already died and no close relatives lived in Manipur now), (4) not earned enough money and not gained appropriate business acumen with risk-taking attitude to start businesses in Manipur.

Some of the possible opportunities in Manipur that non-resident Manipuris can try to shift back to Manipur are – (1) starting a business in tourism/hospitality sector (such as running a restaurant, hotel accommodation, travel transport services, cultural tour programs), (2) starting a locally relevant agro-business (such as rearing of pigs/chickens, egg production, milk production, cultivation of pineapple, sales of dried fruits, potato farming), (3) starting a trading business on off-the-shelf goods (such as electronic items, bedding-clothing items, woods and furniture), (4) starting an advertising and marketing agency (such as sales and promotion of local products, non-news related publication and design activities, general website design activities), (5) starting advisory services (such as educational consultants to admit students from Manipur to various colleges in other Indian states, income-tax/business setup services to local enterprises, export-import setup services to local entrepreneurs, investment in stocks and real estates located in other cities of India, funding grant application to various government and private bodies for projects of local enterprises). The other possibility is to try to expand the business one already owns in other cities of India or abroad to Manipur, or to try to expand new offices in Manipur for the company wherein one currently works at senior management position in other cities of India or abroad.

The key challenge to returning back to Manipur by most non-resident Manipuris is that they haven’t acquired relevant skills, life experiences and risk taking willpower to venture into the career opportunities feasible within Manipur. Also, they may not have enough cash to invest the required start-up fund and most importantly, they may not have known appropriate advisory contacts to support them during the transition phase from ‘where they are currently living’ to ‘within Manipur’. One must motivate self to learn transferable skills while at work in various jobs at other cities of India; such as (1) business acumen on how to deal with finances and resources, (2) people management below and above the current job position, (3) relationship building with peers and non-peers, (4) calculated risk taking and self-starting attitude, (5) networking with relevant professionals and individuals in the interested industry/social domain, (6) awareness on government policies and funding supports in interest areas, (7) self simulation of draft ideas by making occasional visits in Manipur and execution of prototype projects, (8) learning to work in teams to achieve personal project objectives, and yet led by self. Its worth to remind ourselves that – ‘Employees tend to remain lifelong as employees or salaried persons, while entrepreneurs of own businesses tend to aim big to grow as one wishes and leave behind the businesses/wealth-earnings to their family on retirement’. In most state/central government jobs within Manipur, one may find self being stuck for life apart from just waiting for the monthly salary. Also possibly, he/she may not like the work environment and job roles, but, there is no other alternative job to quit and thereby no other means of livelihood.

If a non-resident Manipuri wishes to return back to Manipur someday, one should start saving money from early stage of life and start planning how one can invest own time/money in Manipur. As an example: by building homes at our respective town/village in Manipur in a way that some rooms/floors can be let out to tourists for a short stay, we can even earn some income and also contribute to tourism growth to the local town/village. Thus, if we are ready to write MCSCC exam and become MCS/MPS officer after having done entirely different jobs for years in industry and completed highly technical academic studies in the past, why not we dare to dream even bigger like creating own business firms by using the intelligent brain, life experiences, and willpower we’ve got. Earlier the actual realistic planning on ‘how to return back to Manipur’, higher is the success rate of returning; otherwise the person is daydreaming and wasting own time/effort.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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How serious is unemployment issue in Manipur state now and how this issue relates to Higher Education (HE) institutions in the state? Also, at what level in the ‘priority list to tackle first’, the state govt considers these two issues; thereby deciding the financial budget allocation and timely execution through a strategic planning approach? HE_unemployment_01We may need to review all available policies, support systems and prevailing operating scenarios of HE institutes and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) within Manipur state in order to come up with a rather holistic integrated support system. Current socio-economic chaos in Manipur state may be transformed into opportunities if we are able to find means to create employment for youth in relevant industry sectors, and knowledge transfer from HE institutions to youth and local enterprises by enabling them to lead the society.

Currently, HE policy of state govt seems to focus entirely on (1) building and refurbishing physical infrastructure, (2) hiring and supervising academic staffs, (3) scholarships for students to study outside Manipur (rather than capacity building within the state). Also, state govt seems to focus on another parallel educational policy i.e. imparting vocational school (10th or 12th) level training to youths of Manipur either by sending the students outside Manipur or allowing training companies from outside Manipur to deliver short-term courses for local students within the state. State govt has thus started pumping in more funds to the above areas and hopes to bring about quality as well as quantitative improvements within Manipur. But, the interesting question is ‘Is this current approach really working towards improving HE sector within Manipur?’, or ‘what are the impacts achieved so far toward local economy and graduate employability?’, and ‘is there anything else that state govt missed to consider in the current HE policy?’

Most HE sector issues reported in the local media are of institutional related – such as regularization of ad-hoc lecturers in colleges, mismanagement of scholarship funds meant for students, lack of classrooms and equipments to support teaching, cases of students and academics indulging in malpractices in examinations, lack of principals and qualified lecturers in specific colleges, non attendance of staffs in colleges, less or no students getting admitted to study in various degree courses at specific colleges, etc. Yet, none has seriously looked into the issue of employability for graduates out of colleges and universities within Manipur, and the scarcity of non-govt jobs availability within Manipur.

The HE sector policy of govt rather ought to aim at providing 3 key priority needs at each individual college within Manipur – (1) Infrastructure development for creating ‘Centres of Excellence’ oriented to specifically chosen domain knowledge of local/global relevance, (2) Administrative support staffs having expertise in running HE institutions at world class level, (3) Professional support staffs having expertise in career grooming and local enterprise development support for graduates. State govt’s funding budget in the above three areas may be 50-75% of the overall HE sector allocation. This approach may help in turning around the brain drain scenario of Manipur state i.e. Manipuri students going outside the state to study degree courses and high quality Manipuri professionals leaving the state to teach/work in HE institutions of other states. Thus, chance for quality as well as quantity improvement in HE sector can be seen within Manipur state.

Govt’s policy of introducing vocational school level (10th or 12th std) training courses seems to give conflicting message to the students, as it hints as if the degree level courses provided in various colleges within Manipur are useless to the local job environment. Also, most parents may not wish their wards to choose vocational school level course as compared to degree level courses. A vocational student may learn skills to get a low-level job (though maybe of highly advanced technology) within Manipur or outside the state, but career growth for such vocational students is bound to be of low level in any organizational hierarchy. It’s because they are of skill-based training rather than domain knowledge-based learning unlike in the case of graduate courses.

The graduate courses currently opened in various colleges within Manipur are of traditional nature which is about learning basic science, or arts, or commerce. The applicability of such traditional degree course to the needs of current industry jobs elsewhere or any relevant jobs within local Manipur environment is very hard to find. Either course contents of degree courses ought to be adapted to application oriented learning modules, or new local industry relevant degree courses need to be introduced freshly to all the colleges within Manipur. Again, if govt is trying to retrain youths especially college graduates after having studied 3yrs at one of the colleges in Manipur into another school level vocational training courses, then, it will mean that college students have not only wasted three years of their lifetime in colleges but also govt has wasted crores of Indian Rupee in running ‘white elephant’ colleges in Manipur.

Graduate related issues of HE sector are also relevant to the local enterprises within Manipur, because high technology intensive industrial growth will define availability of jobs which is of graduate level (rather than school level or vocational skills level). State govt needs to consider availability of skilled manpower and capable enterprises in each relevant industry sector before forming growth supporting industrial policies in those sectors. HE sector not only provides skilled manpower for the industry, but also, creates research outputs that support industrial applications and products through R&D activities of academics and scientist in HE institutions. Thus, industrial policies of govt correlates strongly with the HE sector policies. Such strong relationship between academics in HE institutions and industry companies are visible in most developed countries (UK, Germany, France, USA, etc).

Relevant state govt department may create funding pots for SMEs that provides funding support to allow employees to study graduate level professional courses and training programmes in HE institutions within Manipur. Each HE institutions may be encouraged to create a centre of excellence via funding from relevant state govt department to help SMEs in that industry sector. Thus, such approach will brings about enterprise oriented HE policies and creation of more jobs in the local economy because of active participation of SMEs in HE policy formation.

We are yet to fill the gap in policies governing supporting HE sector and growth of SMEs in various industry sectors within Manipur. Hence, in spite of funding heavily on HE sector, Manipuri students are leaving after school education to study outside the state. Also, we can’t see any visible industrial growth in various sectors in spite of heavy funding by the state govt, since we don’t have the requisite industrial manpower locally and professionally working mindset culture in the local enterprises. Thus, it is the right time we tackle both the issues of youth employability and industrial growth by creating an integrated support system within Manipur.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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employability_personality-development_01Professional degree awarding colleges/universities take pride on speaking about their students in terms of ‘Placement record percentage’, ‘Highest salary offer for Job’, and ‘Partner companies from industry’; but rarely speak about ‘employability’ and ‘personality development’ of students. ‘Placement cell’ in most engineering colleges acts more like a recruitment consultancy company providing ‘job search’ services to students. So, (1) how different is the term ‘Placement’ from ‘Employability’, (2) which one of the two above terms should the management board of engineering colleges give more focus, (3) what parameters distinguish professional degree courses from basic general degree courses, and (4) what add-on skills apart from scoring high in academic semester papers ought to be learned by engineering students before graduation?

News media often talks about poor quality of graduates coming out of engineering colleges in India. Industry also cites that majority of graduating students do not possess clarity on engineering concepts and are not up to the basic level of employability skills. Both the technical education accreditation body ‘AICTE’ and respective management board of engineering colleges seem to focus more on academic contents plus infrastructure provision provided and at times on academic staff profiles, than personality development aspect needed for students to be an ‘Engineer’. ‘Placement service’ is about supporting students to get recruited by visiting companies at the college/university campus, and thus, focus for ‘placement cell’ in engineering college is rather on quick-fix approach to satisfy basic entry requirements mandated by recruiting companies on the attending engineering students to their placement process such as percentage score in semester exams, previous scores in school and higher secondary school levels, aptitude test conducted by the company, technical and HR interviews of the company, test on specific technical areas (e.g. programming language, technology domain). Hence, placement preparation activities by engineering students are portrayed as if an entirely different unrelated activity during the engineering study program from the ethos of learning semester papers.

‘Employability’ refers to enabling the student employable i.e. qualified and ready to work. Thus, it hints to grooming the student on three key aspects – (1) mindset/behavior attached to that specific engineering profession, (2) background knowledge and skills need to execute tasks in that specific profession, (3) awareness of industry culture and career growth patterns in that specific profession. Format and academic content of engineering degree programs in various colleges/universities are accredited by AICTE for maintaining quality. Some practical oriented skill training modules are inserted to the course program structure by respective engineering colleges (and universities where they are affiliated to) in order to accommodate practical reasoning skills onto theoretical concepts. Still, most engineering degrees are rather focused on ‘academic reasoning’ and ‘basic technical skills’, thereby lacking a sense to impart common sense skills/knowledge of actual industry requirements on engineering graduates. Employability services (if provided) ought to aim the much needed outcome of ‘what’s exactly expected of an engineering graduate by the current industry’ not just by focusing on ‘placement activities’ aspect.

It isn’t the mandate of any university (or college) to guarantee a job to students, though universities/colleges may advertise their student placement record to attract prospective students. Employability services are valued-added facilities provided to students that aim to connect the two mindsets of academic world and real industry world. Many engineering students (and few professionals even after working in industry for years) often get doubts ‘what that engineering job is about?’ and ‘is that profession really meant for him/her?’. Unlike basic general degree courses, professional degree courses ought to intend to create a professional out of a student at the end of that course program. Studying basic general degree courses is about curiosity to explore the knowledge aspect on a specific domain, whereas studying a professional degree is about applying the knowledge of understanding a specific domain onto some applied activities/outputs. Thus, imparting professional spirit much needed by the actual industry in addition to providing the academic knowledge and reasoning skills is very crucial for professional degree programs.

Engineering colleges/universities should provide equal focus to ‘employability agenda’ on par with ‘academic excellence agenda’. The Management of those institutions currently focus heavily on planning the successful conducting of ‘admission process for newly joining engineering students’, ‘semester classes by leading academic staffs’, ‘periodic examination for students’, ‘timely declaration of exam results and conformance to academic calendar for various curricular activities’, ‘living supports during the course of study and accommodation services at hostels’, etc. Moreover, in India, these engineering colleges/universities emphasize more on bachelor degree education and feed degree graduates to various companies at entry level engineering jobs, thereby sidelining priority on post-graduation (Master and PhD) levels esp. R&D activities and technological innovation. Some cash-rich engineering colleges/universities (including eminent management groups) do provide non-academic services such as ‘placement cell’, ‘social/local impact clubs’, ‘sports/entertainment facilities’ and ‘alumni engagement cell’.

A lot more needs to be done on ‘Employability’ agenda by engineering colleges/universities, if the intention of these institutions is to create a professional out of an engineering student and not just an engineering graduate with a degree similar to a basic general science degree. The term ‘engineering’ itself means ‘practical application of science to commerce or industry’. Employability is also about inspiring ‘enterprise’ agenda among engineering graduates so as to aim to setup startup technology companies. Academic excellence can be easily guaranteed by respective engineering college/university since that is the core purpose for setting up those institutions. The discussion needed now is how to impart the ‘value-added services’ under ‘Employability agenda’ to engineering graduates. This employability topic is even more important to those engineering colleges/universities located in Indian states wherein there is less ongoing economic development activities and minimum/nil industry presence. Colleges/universities providing general degree programs may produce ‘graduates who can think and come up with new conceptual ideas’, but professional colleges providing professional degree programs must produce ‘graduates who can apply thoughts to reality as products/services’. Thus, providing ‘placement services’ isn’t sufficient enough for students in those engineering colleges/universities located at less industrial activity regions; rather these students need to be imparted with skills of technology entrepreneurship and how to survive in startup jobs without opting to get placed as engineers in some companies.

Key add-on skills/activities that engineering graduates should aim to acquire or get involved during the 4-years degree program (with/without the support of management of respective institutions) are:

(1) Co-curricular activities – to identify relevance of academic contents being studied to the real technological world; e.g. attending professionals’ technical conferences, project workshops, research journal paper presentations, hands-on skills training on technical areas

(2) Extra-curricular activities – to build social behavioral personality needed in the industry/society; e.g. joining debating clubs/competition, sports and fitness clubs/competitions, cultural programs/events, managing groups/clubs of interest, organizing team/group activities

(3) Job/career oriented skills – to build professional personality needed in the industry; e.g. Speaking (on stage, during interviews, among team/group), Dressing (during casual or business/official meetings), Presentation (as PowerPoint slides, without any technical tools to present, style/tone of expression in front of peers/seniors/externals/juniors), Writing (in blogs, journal articles, newspaper columns, as official letter, emailing format), Team-work (during group discussion/meeting, problem solving in tight project schedules, tasks delegation among a group), Corporate skills (speaking other foreign/regional languages, programming/technical skills, industry news update, connection to working professionals in relevant industry sector)

Finally, engineering institutions ought to start thinking on how to provide the above add-on skills to their engineering graduates during the course of 4 years degree program, on top of, just acting as the recruitment agency for companies through their placement cell.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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