TODAY -

Petition to Prime Minister by victimized farmers of Ningombam

24th September 2020



To,
Prime Minister of India
South Block, Central Secretariat
New Delhi – 110001

Subject: Destruction of standing crops by Airport Authority and Manipur Police during COVID-19 lockdown

Dear Sir,

Agricultural Labours’ Association, Ningombam (ALAN) is an association of farmers whose standing crops (rice) was destroyed by the Airport Authority of India and the Manipur Police on 9, 10 and 11 September 2020 at Ningombam village, Imphal West District, Manipur.

ALAN is a group of more than hundred households, including those who have been illegally uprooted from our homes and ancestral domain in the year 2009 purportedly for the proposed expansion of the Bir Tikendrajit International Airport. However there was neither a Detail Project Report (DPR) nor an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out before we were evicted.

Moreover, the verbal rehabilitation promises by the then Congress government was never fulfilled, as we continue to live in the arbitrarily allotted land without basic amenities like running water, cremation grounds, school, playground, Primary Health Centre etc.

Since most of us are tenant tillers, the compensation for the land acquisition did not come our way, but we had to pay a heavy prize as we lost our livelihood as the agricultural land was converted to barren land. Since then, we have been eking out a living by doing odd jobs and have been surviving on a hand-to-mouth-basis.

This precarious existence has been abruptly disturbed with the onset of COVID-19 lockdown and we can no longer find any work to make the ends meet. In a desperate move we approached our local MLA to request the Airport Authority to allow us to cultivate the land which has remained unutilized since it was acquired in 2009.

Thereafter, we started cultivating rice by cleaning up about 300 sangam (187.50 acres) of our abandoned paddy fields. As the paddy field has been left unattended for over a decade and was turning into a semi-jungle area, the process of clearing and cleansing for cultivation required considerably more labour and cost, over and above the normal cost of sapling and commune labour cost. We invested a minimum of about Rs. 25,000/- per sangam.

And since most of us have no capital to invest, the amount was borrowed from moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates. We were expecting a bountiful harvest of at least 40 phoubot (2,400 kg) per sangam as, which works out to about 7,20,000 kg of rice in total. We were looking forward to repaying the loans and earn our livelihood out of this harvest.

There was no physical objection from any authority as we toiled on the field the whole day and deep into the night for five long months. In fact, the security forces guarding the airport expressed their happiness that the abandoned land has been cleaned up from becoming a semi jungle.

All of a sudden on 9 September 2020, even as the fruit of the hard work was hardly a month away from harvest, the police came and blocked off the paddy fields while some 30 tractors ran over and destroyed the entire cultivation. We were shocked and shattered to see the inhumane act of destruction of our food and livelihood in the most inhumane manner by the agent of the state that is supposed to succour us during these hard testing times.

We approached our local Pradhan, she advised us to raise the issues with higher authorities as she is helpless. We met the Director of AAI stationed at Imphal but he justified his action on the ground that our pappy cultivation will attract bird and disturb flights. This is bizarre logic as we have been cultivating the field form yore and the airport has been functioning undisturbed since the World War II.

Moreover the air traffic has thinned down considerably during this COVID-19 lockdown. We also approached the Deputy Commissioner of Imphal West district but he declined to meet us.

Having no other option left, we the hapless displaced farmer would like to seek your kind intervention to ensure that we are duly compensated for the loss incurred by the inhumane act of the Airport Authority and Manipur Police.

We sowed but did not reap!

(Akoijam Baleshwor)
Secretary

(Chongtham Noren)
President

Copy to:
1. Governor of Manipur
2. Chief Minister of Manipur


* This Press Release was sent to e-pao.net by Babloo Loitongbam who can be contacted at bloitongbam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This Press Release was posted on 25 September 2020

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