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E-Pao! Opinion - The darkest area of the most backward district of Manipur

The darkest area of the most backward district of Manipur

By: Th Lalthuom Gangte *

Tamenglong is a rugged hill district in the western part of Manipur. It's hardly accessible.

The outside world knows it as the rainiest place of Manipur as it receives an annual rainfall of 400 cm. It has a moderate climate. Orange and Banana plantation farming too bring fame for the district which made the district known to others. No other factors or fields from the district could unveil its obscure garments.

Poor manpower, poor educational and developmental infrastructures, absence of the technical know-how for exploiting and maintaining its meagre resources and the high vim operations of many underground outfits claiming themselves fighting for the liberation of their respective motherlands within the district echoed both the state and country alike. Vividly, it's the most backward district of Manipur.

The pitiable road stret-ching from Khongsang-Tamenglong district headquarters, a distance of some 39 kms, is the real index of Tamenglong since time immemorial. But Kudos! the boon! National Highway No. 53 (Imphal-Jiribam Road) passing through these mountains and hills enables most of the small villages and towns motorable (accessible).

The virtual hope of the people (illiterate) of the district now is the proposed Jiribam-Tupul Railway Project which is expected to open wide Western Door and bring renaissance in this dark unexploit forest regions. In this backward district of our State, in its western most part, there lies/stood an obscure village on the mountain or hill top known as "Longpi", 31 kms away from the sub-divisional Town - Nungba and 156 kms from Imphal, the capital city of Manipur (Sanaleibak).

Though obscure Longpi village is the Rome and the head of all the 21 (twenty one) villages situating in its adjoining area. In this god forsaken area comprising of 21 villages, there's a poor road called Nungba-Longpi Road of about 32 kms long bridging the entire area with the rest of the world.

Hitherto, from the evolution of mankind on this area and the construction of the said road, it has had to faithful comrades: it's none other but dust and mud. It passes through the heart of the thick and dark forest of Longpi and finally reached the heart of the village (the dwelling place of the people).

The 21 villages situating now in Longpi circle are hundreds of years older than our State and country which were founded mostly by our ancestors way back in the 18th century AD. For instance, Longpi village was founded in 1793 AD. However, it was only in the later part of the 20th century, all these villages accorded their recognition from the State Government.

For centuries, the poor and illiterate farmers of this darkest area are dreaming of the lights of science and its wonders. But, so far, even the bitumen forgotten road itself seems antipathy of removing its old comrades, the dust and mud. Electricity is still a far cry: a voice from the wilderness.

As the unmotorable road only favours the pedestrians, the people used their (original tyres) two legs as the cheapest and fastest mode of transport and communication from a village to another and from the market in town to their villages.

It's indeed painful to cogitate that a person needs to tread a minimum distance of 32 kms for purchasing only a kilogram of rice etc. Many of our grandparents left this world even without sighting any vehicle because one has to walk a minimum distance of 35 km through the thick forest just to sight a moving vehicle in the National Highway No. 53.

It may be mention here that the centre of this area, Longpi village is nearest to Nungba and Imphal. The worst is faced by the villagers of Teikhang, Chongmun, Bijang, Lenglong, Longkaiphum, Tuoitengmun and Bijang villages as these villages are all situated at a minimum distance of 17 km away from Longpi village. (their centre). There are narrow footpaths between all these villages which could hardly accommodate a person, not even two. Some footpaths are on the edges and ridges of high cliffs.

The plights of the people are added during wet season when tall grasses in the forest sealed all these footpaths. Modern scientific facilities are virtually absent in this circle. Is electrification of atleast its centre Longpi village forbidden? Or is black topping of the said road an impossible task?

Today, the Longpi area is totally debarred from all kinds of developments and its allied activities. Since the road on which the people solely rely that linked it to the rest of the world is not much better than the footpaths, the hope of transportation by vehicles get lost in the thin air.

Like a horse and bullock ferrying its masters goods or loads, they (the people) themselves are their own horses and bullocks walking up the steep and high mountains and walking down steep cliffs with heavy loads on their heads or backs. We are now living in the 21st century but the road which is the canal for channelling modern amenities and facilities is too poor and fragile to feed the tummies of thousands.

The area is engulfed by two big rivers of Manipur - the Irang and Barak rivers. During flood, there is no other route to move out from our villages. The longest suspension bridge of Manipur which bridged CCpur and Tamenglong Districts was blown off by the underground outfits during the days of Operation Dragnet. Sabotaging this bridge totally trapped the entire region during flood. The only dried route is the route to Nungba though far from satisfaction.

Indeed, it's darkest or remotest area of Manipur in the 21st century. Isn't the development of this god forsaken area the sole onus of the State? The most unfortunate problem is the health's problem of the denizens of this area. Modern health facilities are nil because even a toothless dispensary didn't exist. There is a nominal dispensary at Longpi village without a single employee ‘discharging his/her duties. We don't know where are this staff of this dispensary.

Every year, once or twice a strange type of high fever haunts the area particularly the two villages Longpi and Chongmun. This strange high fever lashed/swept the two villages and ruptured the lives of atleast four or five persons each. To mitigate the disease, medical care centre is the need of the hour.

Seriously sick persons suffering from complicated diseases were usually ferried by the villagers using stretchers to reach the nearest health centre which is at Nungba P.H.C. "Stretcher" fuels/propels by the poor villagers is the only Mobile Hospital available to people of the Longpi circle. It immediately requires the attention of the Govt for the well-being of these people.

Shifting cultivation is the main occupation of the people. Cutting down of forests is their way (technical way) of cultivation. After felling the forests and then burnt, sowing of seeds began. Chilly or Black pepper is the only cash crop (income) of the people. Therefore, large scale plantation/cultivation of chillies are found in and around all these villages. The other crops and paddy/grains cultivated by them are meant for their survival (subsistence).

Even the surplus crops could not reach the markets in time because their fastest means of transpor- tation (always famished) could not pull the high and far mountains closer. The crops brought from Longpi dried up on the way before reaching Nungba as it took more than 8 hours on foot.

Infact, words are ineffectual to scree and express the grievances of the people in Longpi area of our state. If all these were their living standards, what will be the criteria of education in this area? Educationally too, they are laggers. As a part/step of elevating the rate of literacy, for the whole region, the state Govt had earlier set up a high school at Longpi known as Longpi Govt High School few years back.

Fortunately, the Govt equipped this high school with good infrastructures. However, as the Govt. could not keep adequate number of teachers, the big school is almost defunct. At present, there are only ten teaching staff to raise the educational standard of the area.

A high school requires a minimum of 22 teaching staff for its good functioning. During the past few years, about 12 (twelve) teachers left the school either by retirement or migration or transfer to other schools. The effect of migration and retirement of teachers without new recruits touched hundreds of students' career (lives) in the region. Today, Longpi Govt High School is running smoothly by the relentless and never say die spirit efforts of the remaining few teachers.

Famine due to flowering of bamboo and strong winds are the gravest natural forces that sometimes menaced the very existence of human beings in this region. Flowering of bamboo is accompanied by the large scale appearance of Rodents. The Rodents in large numbers or groups moved from one field to another and damaged all the standing crops. These flocks of Rodents are capable of destroying the standing crops of the entire regions within a week or two.

But the unfortunate point is that effective chemicals for curbing the Rodents' population are yet to be invented. Unless appropriate cost effective chemicals or weapons against Rodents are made available to the people, famine (severe) will not forsake the Longpi area. During famine, Nungba is the nearest market for procuring rice and other essential commodities in a sky high price.

Ferrying of rice, etc with a sack or basket (traditional) at such long distance is not a task of roses. It's so painful or heart touching to learn that many of the poor villagers subsisted by taking wild potatoes and bamboo shoots. While the people of other districts are prospering, reaping the fruits of modern scientific achievements, they are leading a life of hand to mouth. Are these people designed by the Designer to suffer?

Certainly not: it can be yours tomorrow. Lastly, I would like to ask, where have the obsequious candidates gone after wheedling the valuable votes of those people? Longpi polling station is the deciding poll for the Nungba constituency "prospering at the cost of others is a curse".

Let enlightenment too reach this unreached dark region.




Th Lalthuom Gangte wrote this article for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on January 14th, 2007 .


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