TODAY -

Anxiety over arrival of train service
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: September 15, 2021 -



NOTWITHSTANDING the fact that standard connectivity networks are essential to accelerate development, lingering scepticism over imminent arrival of train service in the state, which the Northeast Frontier Railways said would become a reality in a little over two years' time, implies that many civil society organisations in the state are not impressed with the existing mechanism of monitoring entries and activities of non-locals.

To allay the public apprehension that thronging of outsiders into the state would ultimately lead to usurping of the limited job opportunities by the outsiders, the government of Manipur set-up an inner line permit (ILP) counter/facilitation centre at Jiribam railway station earlier this month.

However, the government's initiative aimed at proper profiling of non-locals, evoked sharp response from some civil societies, which construe establishment of entry/exit counters at the inter-state border points as formalisation of entry of outsiders into the state while belittling the demand for providing firm constitutional safeguards to the threatened indigenes, especially the unprotected Meetei community.

Vulnerability of the Meeteis, whose area of settlement is confined within the valley where there is no restriction for any other communities to reside or own land, has been time and again reflected in the form of different organisations demanding effective implementation of the inner line permit system, reserving specific assembly segments exclusively for the indigenous communities and seeking constitutional recognition to the Meetei/Meitei community as a scheduled tribe.

The issues may be varied and pursued by different organisations but there is no doubt that genesis of all these demands is centred on the apprehension that the indigenous communities settling in Manipur do not stand a chance to compete with both unskilled and semi-skilled labour force from other states who are certain to come seeking better livelihood here.

Even since the rail project was sanctioned in 2013, there has been a mixed reaction of rejoice and apprehension over Manipur figuring on rail map of India.

While prospect of train service extending up to the state enlivened expectations about sufficient and cheaper availability of essential commodities and help extricate the natives from being at the mercy of a handful of big traders who are in full control of state's trade and commerce, the fear that arrival of trains will further aggravate the influx issue is not unfounded.

For instance, the population of natives in Jiribam town had been outnumbered years before the operation of train service on account of the border district's close proximity to rail-linked Silchar town in Assam.

Similarly, trade activities in Nagaland's commercial capital Dimapur are dominated by outsiders, whose presence have been burgeoning in-spite of ILP remaining in force in the neighbouring state since decades back.

Thus, it is obvious that once the train service reaches Imphal entry of outsiders would be unstoppable.

Incorporating additional provisions to the ILP regarding prohibition on sale or ownership of land might help in preserving land properties of individuals but it could be safely stated that the indigenes will the underdogs when it comes to fighting for survival, from the economic perspective.

In view of the imminent arrival of the train service and its possible vicious fallout on the indigenes, it is time that civil societies start consulting with the intellectual circles to lessen or cope with the socio-economic and political impacts instead of bewailing over the national project, which ultimately aims to further extend to Myanmar, through which one could conveniently access to the prosperous Southeast Asian countries.



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