Guwahati: Despite the Manipur government having taken up different schemes for the welfare of the people currently sheltered at different relief camps owing to the continuing ethnic strife, the affected people belonging to the Meitei community have voiced out their utmost sufferings in eking out their living.
Stating that money is the only driving wheel to augment their daily requirements, they categorically demanded the government to provide family allowance on a priority basis.
“It seems justice has become a distant dream for us,” said a visibly perturbed Naba Ningthoujam, co-convenor of the Joint Committee on Affected Meitei Victims Manipur.
The body was formed by representatives of the then hard-hit 47 villages from Bishnupur, Tengnoupal, Kakching, Thoubal, Imphal West and Imphal East districts of the state.
Over 60,000 people, who were affected by the ongoing violence that unfolded on May 3 this year are currently putting up at around 351 relief camps in both the valley and hill districts of the strife-torn state since then.
Of them, members of the committee are taking refuge at 249 relief camps in the valley districts. At least 4,786 houses were ravaged by the violence across the state.
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Naba (49), who hails from the Chin-Kuki-Zo-dominated Churachandpur district and whose house was torched by miscreants, is currently taking shelter at a relief camp opened on the premises of a college in the Bishnupur district.
“Most of the inmates, who are now lodged across the relief camps, are under severe mental stress, and the strength to hold on to the hope of returning back to their respective homes seems to be fading away,” Naba said.
“We came running for our lives with nothing, but with just a single piece of cloth to cover our bodies. It is a trying time and we know we cannot expect the comfort of our homes. But with no job in hand and without any money, our heart breaks when our children demand snacks to eat when they are hungry, or when they fall ill. We can cope with the two square meals of rice and lentils, but the children cannot,” rued Naba.
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“Considering all our plights, we earnestly appeal to the government to provide allowance money first, and secondly, necessary measures to ensure the internally displaced persons return to their original homes and stay there without fear. Later, the government could compensate for our destroyed houses and properties,” he added.
Naba further said, “However small the allowance money may be, it could uplift us a little bit from the penury we are going through.”
In the education sector, two months after the violence erupted, the education department had notified the reopening of schools. According to a government report, around 14,736 school-going children are internally displaced in Manipur. Efforts are being made by the state authorities to admit the displaced children to the nearest schools.
While he lauded the government’s effort, Naba lamented that the helplessness of broken parents currently taking shelter at make-shift relief camps becomes even more stark when their children start attending schools.
“Even though the government says that children are given education free of cost, expenses are incurred on our part. They have to be fed early ahead of the camp’s scheduled time. Their travel too costs money,” he said.
Khaidem Ratan (53), chairman of the Joint Committee, responding to the October 10 notice of the Manipur home department that the government will ensure the protection of the properties of the displaced persons in adherence to a Supreme Court September order, said, “it is too little and you too late. The damage has already been done.”
Ratan further pointed out that it seems the government has made some hasty decisions regarding the paperwork for compensation.
He said, “We were confused specifically on the word ‘criteria’ mentioned in the compensation form. We had no idea what the criteria were. Though the word has been removed in the new form.”
The chairman expressed happiness at the timely intervention of the Chief Secretary of the state.
In a recent sitting with the Chief Secretary and the representatives of the victims, the former had sought cooperation as well as suggestions on the assessment of the violence-damaged properties for proper streamlining.
Ratan expressed confidence in the joint assessment proposal, which involves government officials and the victims of the damaged properties. He emphasized the importance of maintaining clarity in the compensatory work process, which involves five different government departments.
The joint committee was formed in September, four months after the violence broke out in the state.
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