E-Pao! Feature - NE Sun interviews Gaikhangam

NE Sun interviews Gaikhangam

By: Rajkumar Sushan Singh *

"We stand for long-lasting peace"

MPCC President Gaikhangam in a pensive mood.

Senior Congress leader and Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president, Gaikhangam retained his Nungba Asembly Constituency seat in the recently concluded the 9th Manipur Legislative Asembly election. In a candid talk with North East Sun, Gaikhangam expressed his gratitude of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He also talked about the new Government's to the people of Manipur for posing and reposing their confidence in the Congress party under the leadership plan.

Excerpts from the interview:

North East Sun: What kind of works you want to take up first during your new inning?
Gaikhangam: First of all, I would like to thank and express gratitude to the people of Manipur for keeping faith and confidence in the Congress party under the leadership of Congress president Sonia and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. I am very happy that the people of Manipur have braved all the challenges and odds that they have faced in the last election in spite of having so many problems like intimidations, extortions, kidnapping, pushing down all the vehicles.

Congress workers were beaten up, tortured, kidnapped and detained for quite long time, so that they should not go for polling. They had to face such inhuman tortures, yet they stood up and exercised their franchise. This is a clear message that violence has no room and the will of the people cannot be suppressed by any sections of society. That is a clear message that people of the State, both in the hills and plains, want peace, development, progress and stability in the State.

Talking of the priority of the Government, I think, first and foremost, the agenda before us is to maintain law and order in the State. Peace should be maintained at all cost because without peace it will be very difficult to push through any kind of development in the State. Our main slogan that has been promised to the people is peace, progress, prosperity and development.

NE Sun: How will you bring peace, prosperity and progress in the State?
Gaikhangam: Certain issues are lying before us, which will be treated with honesty. I think that is the main priority for us.

NE Sun: What was your Government's achievement in the last term? Any work which is yet to complete?
Gaikhangam: As far as the political history of Manipur is concerned, never before has a government completed its five-year term. But, the Congress-led Government, under the leadership of Okram Ibobi Singh, has done that this time around. We have also promised that to the people and mentioned in the election manifestoes of both 8th and 9th Assembly Elections. We have fulfilled the promised made to the people of Manipur. I am very happy and proud to say that we succeeded in running a full term stable government, which is a historic event for the state of Manipur.

As a result many developmental works were achieved under this Government. For example - the handing over of Kangla to the people of the Manipur, which is a secret place for all of us and long pending and long cherished demand. Infrastructure both in the hills and plain were improved. Conversion of Manipur University into a Central University was also not an easy job, but we managed that with the blessings of Congress high command. The other important achievement is the laying of foundation stone of railway network from Jiribam to Imphal via Toupul. I am very happy that Manipur would also be included in the railway map. Now, the progress is in full swing.

NE Sun: When can we expect it to become a reality?
Gaikhangam: Such a huge project will definitely take time; you cannot expect it to be completed within a few months. It will take a few years. The target will be 2010. Work has already been started and it can be completed within the stipulated time. Others are Capital Project, including construction of High Court building, Assembly building, the Civil Secretariat building.Some remarkable development can be initiated and some of them have been achieved. And some of them are also in the pipeline in this 9th Assembly term. I think they can be translated into action. That is the promise we have made. I will do that honestly.

NE Sun: What about the road and transport?
Gaikhangam: Some of the projects are under implementation and things have been started. Within few years it will improve significantly.

NE Sun: Is it true that the package from the Centre is diverted to the underground groups?
Gaikhangam: No. It's wrong to say that funds are diverted to the undergrounds.

NE Sun: That means funds and packages have been used in proper channel?
Gaikhangam: Yes, of course. We have faced some hurdles. I don't disagree that there are disturbances by some organizations for which some of the projects may not be completed within stipulated time frame. In fact, we are facing lot of problems, but it does not indicate that funds are diverted here and there.

NE Sun: Is't true that there are two parallel governments in Manipur - Over and underground governments?
Gaikhangam: It is nothing like that. Why two governments? There are some disturbances by some organizations, but that does not mean that they are dominating the government. I have frankly told you that problems are there, created by few underground outfits. But, we are trying to overcome this.

NE Sun: Talking of law and order situation, what is the Government's stand to repeal the Arm Forces Special Powers Act, 1958?
Gaikhangam: The Congress Party had promised and also lifting the Act from seven assembly segments in Imphal area. We have taken it in a very serious note. If the situation improves, automatically it vanish.

NE Sun: Do you feel that the present situation is not suitable to repeal the Act completely from the whole of Manipur?
Gaikhangam: We will have to wait and watch whether the situation improves or not. Now, I have talked about disturbances in the developmental work, which have been done in time. Things are happening but we have shown our intention to all the concern people that we have a political commitment and willingness to lift the Arm Forces Special Powers Act. That's why I think lifting it from 7 assembly segments is a good beginning. It is a good signal. Our humble appeal to all concerned is to maintain peace and tranquillity. So if peace prevails, it will be automatically lifted.

NE Sun: Talking of territorial integrity, what is the Government's stand?
Gaikhangam: The Congress Party stands for unity and integrity of the State of Manipur. And to maintain the territorial integrity is reflected in the manifesto both in the 8th and 9th Assembly election. And still we stand for that.

NE Sun: Have you ever approached NSCM (IM) leaders for lasting solution?
Gaikhangam: We have nothing to do with them. This is a State affair. This is our very own state affair. And the verdict in the recently concluded election stands for the unity and integrity of the State. So we have to reciprocate that because that is the promise we have made to the people of Manipur. There is no doubt about that and we are not at all worried about it.

NE Sun: Insurgency has been a pertinent problem in the State since last several decades and the situation is often seen to be deteriorating. How will you tackled the problem?
Gaikhangam: Insurgency in Manipur is a long drawn problem. And it may take time. The Government of Manipur will initiate or facilitate dialogues with the Government of India and the different organisations of Manipur. Until and unless there is a political solution, no lasting peace is possible. We stand for that. Our role is limited to facilitating the Centre and the outfits. There should be a dialogue in fact with the Government of India. Whatever problems they have, they have to let out.

NE Sun: Have you earlier initiated any plan regarding negotiations?
Gaikhangam: We had attempted that many years ago, but we need more attention. I agree we have to make more commitment to that direction. We will try to do that.

NE Sun: What is their response (insurgent outfits)? Do they want to negotiate or do they sit silent?
Gaikhangam: We are yet to receive a positive response from their side. But, I think we can expect that. How long it will go like this? There should be a solution.

NE Sun: Don't you think that solution is very late?
Gaikhangam: It's always better late than never.

NE Sun: In case of ULFA and NSCN, the Centre at least recognises them for negotiations? But in case of Manipur there are many insurgent outfits. If the Centre wants to talk, with whom should they negotiate?
Gaikhangam: When we talk about the solution, it cannot be a unilateral, rather bilateral. Response should be come from both sides. So far the Government of India is concerned, they keep on inviting for talks. Now the ball is in outfit's court.

NE Sun: What are your Government's stands for the sport loving people of Manipur?
Gaikhangam: First of all, I would like to congratulate our players for excellence performances in the recently concluded 33rd National Games held in Guwahati. This is an extraordinary quality of our boys and girls and they need more encouragement from all quarters. I am also very happy being a Manipuri, and an Indian that our boys and girls have performed well. We feel proud of our boys and girls. It's my wish that they will keep it up. I hope, they will perform well in the international arena and bring laurels to our nation proud.

NE Sun: From the financial point of view how will you encourage them?
Gaikhangam: Government is trying to develop sports infrastructure to encourage them. I won't say that this is enough for them. Serious and more attention is the need of the hour to encourage them.

NE Sun: From the employment generation and education point of view what is the Government's role?
Gaikhangam: For that Special Employment Guarantee Scheme we have introduced since 3 years ago and still continuing. And this is one thrust we have made and also for maintaining the quality education. The most glaring example of the intention of the Government is the convertion of the Manipur University into the Central University. By upgrading the University into the National level, the quality education will come up automatically. That is the main basic beginning through which individual or collectively or institutionally quality education will come up.

NE Sun: Regarding Centre Government's 'Look East Policy' how much Manipur will benefit from this?
Gaikhangam: Our appeal is to the Centre. Of course, the centre is very kind enough to the North-Eastern States, particularly in Manipur. We also would like to appeal further to the Central Government to give more impetus in 'Look East Policy' so that the North-Eastern States have the fullest advantages out of that. I think the Central Government is doing that. Let's hope for the best.

The article has been published in North East Sun Magazine from New Delhi (May 1st issue).

* Rajkumar Sushan Singh contributes to regularly . The writer is a Delhi-based Journalist, working in a media house . He can be contacted at sushanrajkumar(at)yahoo(dot)com . This article was webcasted on 24th May 2007.

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