Development on the Downhill
Hill areas reel under poor infrastructure while 80% of govt funds are reserved for the valley
Imphal/ Tamenlong: Bad roads in the hill areas coupled with valley-centric development schemes and infrastructure programmes have led to a rift in Manipur. Manipur, which has been ruled by the Congress for the last 15 years, is often accused of excluding the hills from the development agenda. People from the hill areas claim that despite hill districts of Manipur comprising 89% of the geographical area, there were only 20 MLAs from these areas in the Manipur Assembly. The valley, which comprises just 11% area, had 40 seats and around 80% of the funds meant for the development in the state were consumed by the valley.
The condition in hills worsened followingdemonetisation of .₹ 1,000 and .₹ 500 notes and economic blockade by the United Naga Council (UNC) on two highways since November 1 last year. The constitutional provision of the Sixth Schedule is not implemented in the hills of Manipur while most of the North-eastern states have it.
A full bench of the High Court of Manipur has directed the secretary, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, to carry out the high court order regarding repairing of pot holes along the National Highway-37 (Imphal-Jiribam road) with immediate effect.
Adim Pamei, the BJP candidate who is contesting against deputy chief minister GaikhangamfromNungbaassemblycons- tituency in Tamenlong district told ET, “We hardly have roads in hill areas. Attendance of teachers in government-run schools is very poor. Hill areas have faced apathy of the Congress government and there is hardly any development.” Gaikhangam, who belongs to a Naga tribe and comes from hill area, however, admitted that there was discrimination against the hills but that is a thing of the past. “We took up inclusive infrastructure development in the hills. Different areas in hills have got sub-divisional officer, block development officer, mini-secretariat with accommodation to government staffs. There is a balance between development between the hills and the valley,” he said. He said that creation of seven new districts which UNC is opposing by resorting to blockade is done for administrative convenience and meant to take administration at the doorstep of the people, especially in the hills.
“For decades, hills have faced neglect in the hands of the Ibobi government and this negates his claim of inclusive development,” said S Milan, general secretary of UNC. Nine tribals died while protesting against three anti-migrant bills passed in the Manipur Assembly on August 31 last year.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju during an election campaign rally in Manipur on Monday. PTI