TODAY -

Tentacles in population dynamics of Manipur

Dr K Nabachandra Singh *

A very crowded scene at Ema Keithel, Imphal in November 2015
A very crowded scene at Ema Keithel, Imphal in November 2015 :: Pix : Shankar Khangembam



Manipur is gifted with natural beauty and favourable climate. About 10% of its total area constitute the valley area and the rest (90%) is hill areas.

The valley is surrounded by the hill ranges which make barriers to invaders from neighbouring countries in the past during the reign of Kings of Manipur. After the merger of the kingdom to Indian union in 1949, many problems crop up in respect of it’s population dynamics.

While entry of outsiders was restricted by imposing strict regulatory mechanism during the rule of the kings, there seems to be no rule/regulation at hand till date to regulate the entry of outsiders or foreigners. This will ultimately lead to the situation the original Tripuris are now facing in their own homeland.

They are minorities in their home state, not even represented in the state Assembly due to influx of Bengalis from erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. A wake-up call to all the indigenous people of the hills and valley of Manipur to avoid a catastrophe on our future generation.

1. The influx of migrants in Manipur can be studied from different angles – International commitments by the Indian Union:

(i) The Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed at Kathmandu on 31st July 1950 by Prime Minister of Nepal, Mohan Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana and Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Chandreshwar Narayan Singh came into effect on the same day.

This treaty permits free movement of citizens of both the countries across the border without any passport or visa, live and work in either country and own property or do trade and business in either country. This treaty was executed when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister of India with a view to strengthening India’s position in matters of defence and foreign affairs.

A large number of Indians (Madhesis) live in Nepal, own property, do business taking the benefit of the treaty. The dominance of the Indians in trade and commerce of Nepal prompted the Nepalese constituent Assembly to suggest scrapping of the 1950 treaty. Reciprocally, millions of Nepalese live, own property and do business in India particularly in North-East India.

(ii) The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 resulted in mass exodus of Bangladeshis from the erstwhile East Pakistan to India. About 8 to 10 million refugees have taken shelter in the north-eastern region.

Subsequently, Indo-Bangladesh Friendship Treaty was signed between the Indian Prime Minister, Smt. Indira Gandhi and the Bangladesh Prime Minister. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 19, 1972. This treaty gives the Bangladesh refugees the privilege to settle in India. This treaty lapses on March 19, 1997.

The influx of the foreign national from Nepal and Bangladesh have a far reaching effect on the demography of the North-East India. In the context of Manipur, the Nepalese are mostly concentrated in Kanglatombi, Leimakhong, Kalapahar and Kangpokpi of Senapati district and in Serou village of Sugnu of Thoubal district.

The Bengalis from Bangladesh are concentrated mostly in Jiribam of Imphal East district and Saiton village in the South under Kumbi constituency.

These foreign nationals who migrated either from Nepal or Bangladesh and who were given constitutional safeguard under the treaties move to various parts of valley in search of job.

The skilled labourers stay in rented houses in and around Imphal to earn their living. What is alarming is the uncontrolled inflow of the relatives, near and dear ones of these migrants who had already settled in Manipur. Manipur state Government has no proper legal or administrative mechanism to check further inflow. The pressure is felt in the thickly populated valley areas, as it provides more job opportunities to the labourers. It is comparatively less felt in the sparsely populated hill areas of Manipur.

2. Illegal migration from Myanmar

There are continuous inflow of migrants from Myanmar through the porous Indo-Myanmar border on the southern side. There is strict regulation on the Myanmar side to check illegal entry and violators often face imprisonment while on the Indian side it is almost free for all. Furthermore, the inhabitants on both sides of the International Indo-Myanmar border happen to be tribal such as Nagas, Mizos, Kukis in several pockets thereby facilitating trans border migration.

If this illegal migration is not checked, after several decades the hills of Manipur may witness the pitiable situation as is now seen in the valley of Manipur. The illegal immigrants should be dealt under foreigners act. The central and state governments are quite indifferent in this regard although enthusiastic social organizations often raise the issue. The indigenous hill people of Manipur also need to think for the safeguard of the future generation of their own tribes.

PRESSURE FROM WITHIN IN THE VALLEY AREAS OF MANIPUR

In the hills of Manipur, there is proper constitutional safeguard to disallow the plain people or non-tribals to settle in the hills. While on the other hand, the tribals and outsiders from any part of the country can come, settle, own landed property in the valley areas of Manipur.

This unbridled Land Revenue policy of the State Government has resulted in very high population density in valley areas – nearly 1000/sq.km of Imphal West, (according to 2011 census) followed by Thoubal(818/ sq.km), Imphal East (638/sq.km) and Bishnupur (485/sq.km). As is seen from the 2011 District-wise Population census given below, the population density of Tamenglong is only 32 sq.km, followed in increasing order, by Ukhrul (40/sq.km), Chandel (43/sq.km), Churachandpur (59/sq.km) and Senapati (109/sq.km).

A closer look at the population growth rate during the decade (2001-2011) suggests that there is abnormally high population growth in the hill districts vis-a-vis the valley districts of Manipur. Ukhrul shows a decadal growth rate of 30.07, followed by Tamenglong (25.69), Senapati (25.16), Chandel (21.72) and Churachandpur (19.03). On the other hand, the decadal growth rate in all the 4 valley districts of Manipur is around 15 only.

The abnormally high decadal growth rate in the hill districts may be, most probably, due to high influx of tribals from neighbouring states and Myanmar engineered by vested interests for their political ends. The pathetic scenario of the indigenous Manipuri people are now becoming a minority in Jiribam, should not be lost sight of. It is an outcome of short sighted game plan of the politicians of the region to capture power by importing migrants for their vote bank regardless of the fate of their children in future. The brethren of the hill areas of Manipur must think of the future which is threatened by the inflow of migrants from other states or countries.

POPULATION PRESSURE ON MANIPUR VALLEY

The valley area is subjected to population pressure resulting from:
(a) International commitments viz Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty (1950) and Indo-Bangladesh Friendship Treaty (1972)
(b) Manipur Land Revenue (MLR) Act which puts no bar to the sale of land from the valley areas to the tribes or outsiders.

On the other hand, the valley people cannot purchase or settle in the hill areas. This creates a situation like a one-way traffic which will ultimately lead to saturation in the valley in the near future. Educated people, State or Central Government employees from the hills normally settle in Imphal valley as most of the Government offices are located in this area while the poor urban dwellers shift to the rural areas but not to the forbidden hill areas.

The burden can be lessened to a great extent by improving the infrastructures, road connectivity, health care centres, educational facilities, power and other such facilities available in the valley areas; establishing Government institutes in the hill areas leaving aside the Imphal centric/valley centric concept.

In the realm of physical sciences, we find that the one way process will lead to a point of saturation. The most stable dynamic equilibrium will be attained through a two-way process. Similarly, the state of population explosion in the valley areas of the state can be checked if the land laws are suitably amended to allow the indigenous plain people to settle in hill areas, as is the case in the valley for the hill people.

Ultimately, a homogeneous Manipuri society can be built up. Now, businessmen from outside the state have complete control over the market of Manipur. They own land and buildings in the heart of the city. Furthermore, skilled and unskilled labour from outside the state enter the state in large numbers daily and stay in various rented houses of the town areas, thereby creating a precarious situation for the local work force.

It will therefore be in the interest of all sections of Manipuri society regardless of caste, creed and place of birth to put in place proper legislation like Inner Line Permit System to regulate the entry of outsiders and to disallow the sale of landed property to outsiders (non-Manipuri) both in the Hills and Valley before we face a Tripura like situation where indigenous Tripuris are no longer represented in the constituent Assembly of Tripura.

It is internationally accepted fact that a species, be it plant or animal or a tribe is under the threat of extinction, the world community comes to the rescue by adopting necessary measures to ensure its perpetuation.

Failure to do so will lead to total extinction of the species from the surface of the earth. Let us not revisit Tripura like situation where native Tripuris become minority in their own homeland due to unchecked inflow of Bengalis from neighbouring states and country.


* Dr K Nabachandra Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 21, 2016.



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