Echoes of the people
(In reference to the incident of JCB used as an ambulance and a loss of a precious life in Khengjoi sub-division of Manipur's Chandel district)

Gogou Haokip *

Thangtinlen Baite dies while he was carrying in JCB's bucket at S.Bongjol  Village (near Indo-Myanmar border)
Thangtinlen Baite dies while he was carrying in JCB's bucket at S.Bongjol Village (near Indo-Myanmar border)

The story of a poor man's dead body lying inside a heavy earth mover JCB's bucket in Khengjoi sub-division of Manipur's Chandel district has been trending in social media since the last two days. The deceased person, (L) Thangtinlen Baite, 27, son of Mr. Lamthang Baite from N. Gamnom village, a cultivator by profession, was suffering from an unknown disease for a few days before the fateful day.

As his health begun to deteriorate on this fateful day, he was forced to be carried in the JCB bucket and moved toward Myanmar as the only option. Unfortunately, he died on the way at S. Bongjol village, near the border and his lifeless body was brought back to the village for funeral.

The news broke out on 15 July 2017 evening and it spread like wildfire in social media. What forced the villagers to use JCB as emergency ambulance will reveal the sad part of the story. This incident is not the first of its kind in this part of the county. Many villagers lost their precious life due to lack of basic necessities like road, health care and medicines. However, what made this case peculiar was that a JCB tractor was used as ambulance, which had never happened in the history of our country.

There are three points to be noted that forced the villagers to use a JCB tractor as an ambulance. Firstly, the road that connects N.Gamnom to other part of the state was inaccessible due to continuous rainfall in the last few days. Due to the appalling condition of the road, no vehicle could move inside the village. Therefore, JCB was the only option to bring the sick person out of the village.

The next point is, why was the sick person carried towards Myanmar? The reason as reported in some media was lack of public health centre- PHSC in the periphery of the region and the worst part is there is not even a health care unit to provide first aid. The nearest to them was to cross the Indo-Myanmar border at any cost and get treated in a Myanmar hospital.

The third point is lack of communication system and mobile service availability in times of emergency situations in border areas.

As the news spread in social media, it also highlighted the ground realities and the indifference of the government to the region where even basic infrastructures are absent. A local person from Khengjoi sub-division stated, "The man died not because he succumbed to his illness but due to poor condition of the road coupled with absence of healthcare facilities".

Lifeless body of (L) Thangtinlen Baite
Lifeless body of (L) Thangtinlen Baite

Another comment of a villager is: "We have no option. The road is so bad and no vehicle can move on it. One bridge was also washed away by flood. The only option left with us was to use JCB as an ambulance and reach nearby hospital (in Myanmar) as soon as possible. Also, his illness worsened each passing hour and no doctor/medical staffs are posted here to consult and give us advice. By looking at him, we observed that he urgently needs doctor attention."

How long the people of hills living in far-flung areas of Manipur are going to suffer and lost their precious lives just because of lackadaisical approach of the government in providing basic needs of the people? This incident should serve as a WAKE-UP CALL to the government, particularly the Public Works and the Health departments, and take up new policies and projects in this region in the sectors of road connectivity, healthcare, electricity and water supply, which have been neglected by the previous government.

The best way to address the grievance of the people is to listen to them first. The present government of Manipur popularly protruded as People's government has incorporated public participative administration like Hill's day, Peoples' day, Go to hills-Ching challo etc. This is praiseworthy and at the same time the hope of the hills people is sky high.

Therefore, I am compelled to collect some of the demands of the people, which may be treated as an appeal from various social media interaction.

1. The government must extend all possible help to the victim (L) Thangtinlen Baite's family.

2. Government must set-up an Inquiry Committee to investigate the incident.

3. Being a region of tough terrain, all road connecting villages of Khengjoi Sub-Division, Chandel should be replaced or built with all-weather road and a special consideration should be given to these areas under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).

4. All PHC/PHSC centres under Khengjoi Sub-division, Chandel (Manipur) should be operational and government must check and take appropriate actions if it doesn't function properly.

5. Last but not the least, Air dispensary cum ambulance - helicopter service should be extended to Khengjoi sub-division, Chandel (Manipur) as a matter of priority.

* Gogou Haokip wrote this article for
Gogou Haokip, Old Samtal village, Chandel. The author is a freelance writer and can be reached at gouhaokip89(AT)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on July 18, 2017.

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