The first CM to visit the remotest village

Wichamdinbo Mataina *

 An Outreach Programme at Kuilong-I, Tamei sub-division, Tamenglong district with CM N Biren Singh on December 03 2021
An Outreach Programme at Kuilong-I, Tamei sub-division, Tamenglong district with CM N Biren Singh on December 03 2021 :: Pix - TSE

Lately, on the social media, if you have seen people carrying a pregnant woman or a seriously sick person on the stretcher, rain or shine, crossing rivers and mountain terrains, that are the people from Kuilong area. That has been the way of life even before the coming of today’s social media. Locally and beyond, Kuilong or ‘Kuilong Area’ is well known rather infamous for its backwardness.

The people of Kuilong area are elated at the announcement of the visit of Chief Minister Shri N. Biren Singh and Governor Shri La Ganesan to Kuilong village/area as part of the incumbent government flagship programme ‘Go to Hill’. Earlier, the visit was scheduled for 7 December 2021 but now rescheduled for 3 December 2021. One hopes, the visit is not just a mere visit but to understand well the people’s issue in the area, besides building friendship with the populace.

Kuilong is under Tamei Sub Division, Tamenglong district and located in the northern part of Manipur. The latitude and longitude of Kuilong is roughly 25.354870 and 93.776520 (GPS coordinates: 25°N 93°E). Move a little towards the north-west, Maguilong (Makuinong) village is located by 7 km, and vertically towards the north, three more Liangmai villages namely Rienta (Lemta), Nallong and Chakha are located.

About 5 km from Nallong or Maguilong, Manipur and Nagaland are administratively demarcated by the Barak river where Zeme villages like Mpai, Puilwa are located on the other side of the river. Chakha village is administratively placed under Senapati district during 1973 Delimitation Commission while Paokai was the Member of Parliament for Outer Manipur.

To the east of Kuilong, Poumai, Maram and Mao settlements under Senapati district are located by about 35 km and there is no accessible road to them other than via Chakha or Tamei. Towards the west, Liangmai villages like Dunnong, Bamriaklong (Eleng) are located and towards the south, villages like Kadi, Tudon (Chaton), Nkou (Takou) are located followed by the Tamei Head Quarter.

One pedals up to four days to reach the district Head Quarter Tamenglong. People from the area go to Imphal via IT (Imphal-Tamenglong) road that takes four days. Neighbouring villages go to the nearest town called Peren in Nagaland for essential commodities, and that takes two days of walking.

There has been a blueprint of motor-able roads for this area since the British period. The road could never become a motor-able road but the alignment made in those days was used only as a village path and by horse users. The motorable non metalled seasonal road for the first time was opened in early 2000 during the tenure of Late Z. Mangaibou, MLA, 52 Tamei Assembly Constituency. Thanks to PMJSY, the laying of stone works is under progress.

Over the decade, the people of the area were relieved with the coming of solar panels. Formerly, the people who could afford would pedal upto 45 km to Tamei for kerosine to light up their homes. Exactly two years ago, some of the villages from the area could taste the joy of the electricity in their homes and with the coming of the electricity, the people absolutely sense and taste the fruit of a development.

There is no centrally run educational centre or state run mini-health centre in the entire area. Hundreds of lives could not be saved due to the lack of a very basic health facility. The nearest health centre for the area is in Tamei. Each village has a Government Primary school and the condition of the schools are nothing better than a namesake.

Alas, where are all the Government appointed teachers who were trained well from the highest district teaching institutes (DIET) of the state. Our schools will never be the same once the culture of substitution is gone. But there are more things to blame about the system of substitution. The people’s representative, the top bureaucrats, and the top law enforcing agencies could not say a word to those substitute teachers of the state.

Their power to say a word on absentee teachers was overpowered by what is called a gift which was taken by the people’s representative and bureaucrats from those teachers well before their appointments and everybody says it is the system. The people have to still look for a system to bring a change.

As a norm, when the Chief Minister visits the area, every individual and village would submit memorandum of requests for many things and of course they need them. But there are only two primary things the Chief Minister should give priority for the area from this visit, at least in my opinion.

What are the essential things the area needs in common? They are a well established education centre, a trade centre for a self reliant area, a telecommunication facility, a health centre, a well connected power system, a sports centre, etc. A check on the various individual schemes such as health card, PMAY, Old Age Pension Scheme, D'DAY, MGNREGA, PMKVY, etc is a must instead of creating new schemes or projects for the area.

It is normal for a ruling Government to choose a beneficiary sadly on their whims. PMAY-G is a housing scheme for the rural population. However, for instance, there have been several grievances raised from Maguilong (Makuinong), Rienta (Lemta) and Kuilong that the recipients are chosen based on how they vote during the Assembly Election.

You do not give or will not give your vote for NPF party for instance (presently the MLA for the area is of NPF, then your names will be in the waiting list of the PMAY forever. What can the Chief Minister do to ensure that the schemes are going to the genuine beneficiaries as he visits Kuilong on 3rd December? Needs are endless.

Water and Sanitation are two things that cannot be separated. The Chief Minister will experience himself this time the sanitation situation provided he goes around and sees. This is one basic need for the area to rise and to live a dignified life. When will every household get water near their kitchen is a big question. The villagers are struggling for something too high like an IAS officer, a doctor, or an engineer from their village.

Of course, they need them too. They don’t realise that the village harmony comes via safe, clean and easily accessible water facility. Small but a daily neighbourhood issue in many villages are due to a water topic. No, they lack no water sources, they need a means and modern equipment to make use of the water.

An important thing will be to give a new life to the SDC Office from this visit. This office has been existing in name since 1981, the time when Haochong and Oinamlong SDC circles were established. Why would the villagers pedal 45 km to Tamei to get a thing like birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.

As an inhabitant from the area, I see two things must be done and handed over in no time to the area from the visit. The first one is the road, an all weather road. Yes, there have been orders and orders for a road budget for the area. But the roads are already pathetic even before they are completed. The current road (metal) works for the area has been under process literally over the last eight years.One is from Tamei to Nagaland Peren-Maram road via Kuilong which will be about 80 km. Another road about 50 km that will meet Tamei-Kuilong road is from a Kuki village called Gelnal connecting the IT road.

There are so many causes and justification for not delivering an all weather road for the area but the major issue to be examined would be the politicians and the contractors. It is not an easy question but what would the Chief Minister do or say on this? Current metalling of the roads in the area is the first time this has happened.

They say a second reparation will come for the roads but why would the road not be built that may last for at least ten years by now? It has been a dream for septuagenarians and octogenarians of the area to see an all weather road. It is typical of politicians to say that the concerned departments would look into it when you approach them with a question. But the Chief Minister should look into it by himself if he really cares for the area.

The third road that has nearly come for the area but now nowhere to be seen is the proposed Tamenglong-Peren National Highway that will pass through the Barak river range and touch the area. What has happened on this road? Over the two years, the narratives about it have been like the villagers demand a huge compensation. That is rubbish. It’s the people that run between the funding agency and the beneficiaries.

They were the ones who could not show or convince the villagers with black and white paper about the compensation rules of the country. It has been reported that the so-called social leaders and bureaucrats insist on a blank NOC letter head from the villagers. Compensation for the tribals of the area is essential but the villagers never demanded any compensation outside of the norms. Once the land rights of tribal people are gone, what other things does a tribal community to possess? Nothing. They will live under the mercy of the rich corporates.

With road connectivity, every other thing will follow to come to this area. Myriad and unnecessary problems have been associated with our lives due to the lack of road connectivity.

The second thing the Chief Minister should be concerned of is obvious: it is a health facility. A very basic health centre where one doctor and one nurse are present round the year. I have carried a pregnant woman or a seriously sick person to Tamei and Peren several times. The experience is indescribable. On one occasion (2009), we were carrying a pregnant woman to Nagaland on a stretcher.

The village paths are narrow and each side or above the path was covered by bushes. It was a rainy day. Out of nowhere in the middle of the journey, as the stretcher was over our heads and the pregnant woman on the top, a beehive was hit by the stretcher and bees stung the woman and all of us. They are quite terrible to remember. Had there been a basic maternity home or centre, life would have been easier.

Unfortunately, often pregnant women died due to lack of a health facility. Can the Chief Minister deliver a very basic health centre from this visit? That would be more than enough.

The people of the area honestly welcome the visit of the Chief Minister.

* Wichamdinbo Mataina wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on December 06 2021.

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