Imphal/New Delhi: On June 1, 2023, about a month after the ethnic clashes broke out, Union home minister Amit Shah made several promises to the people of Manipur. It has now been nearly three months since that date – so where do his promises stand? How many of them have been fulfilled? The Wire breaks it down.
One of Shah’s promises was about sending medical teams to Manipur. He said, “Out of the eight medical teams formed by the Indian government, three teams have reached Manipur, and five teams will arrive soon. These teams will provide health facilities in Moreh, Churachandpur and Kangpokpi areas.”
However, 35 people have already died in Churachandpur due to the lack of medicines and proper treatment at the hospital in the district, according to Kuki Khanglai Lawmpi, a Kuki civil society organisation that has been providing medical aid in relief camps.
“Many have died since May 3, but what about those who could have survived if the government had provided them with proper treatment and medication? Then many could have survived. In the past 3.5 months, I have not seen anyone from the Union government helping out in our relief camps,” said K. Haokip, information secretary of the Kuki Khanglai Lawmpi.
Haokip further added that many have died because they couldn’t reach Imphal – where they could get proper treatment in bigger hospitals like the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) and Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIIMS). “On Monday (August 21), a person died of typhoid because we didn’t have proper medicines and machines to treat him. Two people didn’t get their cancer treatment, and a few died from malaria,” Haokip claimed.
Haokip is looking after 63 relief camps in Churachandpur, housing 9,000 people, and another 5,000 staying in private houses. He believes that the Union government doesn’t care about the Kuki community anymore.
The Wire also reached out to people in Kangpokpi, where the Union government is sending doctors from AIIMS Guwahati on rotation.
Speaking to The Wire, Kimjaneng, secretary of the Foundation for Environment and Economic Development Services (FEEDS), said, “Medicines are always in short supply. Most of the time, the displaced have to purchase it themselves. Due to a lack of medical infrastructure, patients with serious issues are being taken to Kohima, Dimapur and Gauhati for treatment by the medical team of the relief committee, which is very expensive.”
In Kangpokpi, according to FEEDS, 10 people died due to a lack of medicine and improper treatment.
Shah had also promised to give Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of those who lost their lives in the violence under the joint relief and rehabilitation package of the Union and the Manipur governments, funded equally by the two .
According to the state government’s report, submitted in the Supreme Court, 150 people died between May 3 and June 9. Out of these, only 45 people have received compensation from the state government alone. The Union government has not given out any compensation except in Kakching, where six people received the Union’s share of Rs 5 lakh but nothing yes from the Manipur government. (The Wire is awaiting data from the Churachandpur district collector’s office. This article will be updated if a response is received.)
State education minister Thounaojam Basantakumar Singh had announced summer vacations from May 4 to May 30 after violence erupted in the state. Shah had expressed concerns about the interruption in education and the effect it would have on students. He promised to formulate a plan for online education within two days. Subsequently, the vacations were extended till June 19 and further extended till July 1, after which the Manipur government reopened schools on July 5. No online classes were conducted at any point during the closure as the internet in the state remained suspended for over two months before being lifted partially – and in a way unlikely to reach most citizens.
On July 25, the Manipur home department came up with guidelines where the government decided to keep the suspension of mobile data under Rule 2 of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services Rules, 2017, and lifted the ban on broadband services if a person fulfilled the government’s terms and conditions. On August 10, the government reopened schools for class 9-12 students.
University students’ issues
Many students from the Kuki community took their semester examinations while sitting in district collectors’ offices as they didn’t have access to the internet and they couldn’t go to Imphal to take the exam. After the examinations, the new semester began in person. Nearly 50 students of NIT Manipur had been demanding that classes be held online and also raised this issue with the dean, L. Herojit Singh, but didn’t get any response from him.
Consequently, they approached the Ministry of Education, Manipur on June 26 and demanded alternative arrangements, specifically transferring students to other engineering institutes in the country. The students also wrote to the state government and the governor but didn’t receive a response.
Speaking to The Wire, Zemin Haokip, a second-year student of NIT Manipur, said, “Starting our studies from some other university is also impossible for us. We won’t have any further chances to get into NIT, IIT, and IIIT, etc., which take admission through JEE. So we have to pursue another course, or I don’t know what each one of us will think of. In this situation, the only option for us is a college transfer, but for that the government must listen to our concern, the dean must reply to students.”
Paul, an engineering student, asked, “If this is what ‘achche din‘ looks like then I shudder to think how ‘bure din‘ will be. Offline classes for some while sidelining the Kuki-Zo students of the state, is this also part of the New Education Policy?”
The Wire also reached out to T. Haokip, who is the education secretary of the Kuki Students’ Organisation (KSO). “We’re in touch with multiple universities so that our students can continue their studies, and so far, only Kannur University, which is in Kerala, has given us the green signal for our students to continue their studies there. We are looking for other options too.”
The Wire also asked him why he is not demanding online classes from institutes in Manipur. “To get internet [access] is not easy for every student, and students have to go and sit in the DC office for their studies, which I believe is useless for students who are pursuing medical and engineering because for these two subjects, practical knowledge is more important than theories,” he replied.
Approximately 70,000 people are living in relief camps in Manipur and for them, the home minister had promised temporary housing. Only a few houses in eastern Imphal were inaugurated by chief minister N. Biren Singh on Tuesday, (August 22), while in other districts, construction is still going on.
The Manipur government told the Supreme Court that all basic amenities, in terms of food and medical care, were being provided to those living in relief camps. However, those working on the ground say that is not the case.
The Wire also reached out to one of the relief camps in Imphal Naorem Birahari College, where more than 300 people are living. The residents of the relief camps get 400 grams of food per person per day from the government. “The food we get is not enough for the people living here, but somehow we are managing as many volunteer organisations have donated food,” said Rajeshwar, who is in charge of the college.
Due to the ongoing conflict, the Kuki community is unable to travel to the valley while the Meiteis are unable to access the hill areas. To ensure airport access for those living in the hills, Shah had promised helicopter services to the Imphal airport. The Committee on Tribal Unity (CoTU) chairman told The Wire that the service is yet to start in Kangpokpi, while in Churachandpur, Ginza Vualzong, Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum spokesperson, said, “No civilian will dare to use that service to reach the airport because if we do then we will be killed in Imphal.”