Displaced teens in strife-torn Manipur drop school to work

“I started selling detergents and incense sticks made at the relief camp with a friend from the relief camp around two months ago."

ByRK Tayalsana

Updated 12 Feb 2024, 6:24 am


For few, life is a jolly affair filled with the scent of lovely rose petals and glamorous affairs while for some it is a treacherous journey with obstacles that test the limits of human sacrifice and endurance.

Not too long ago, the classrooms and corridors of Ideal Girls College in Akampat, Imphal East, echoed the laughter and cheers of students and teachers but now it houses hundreds of displaced people mainly from Churachandpur and Moreh who are struggling to cope with the daily demands and needs in their new environment.

It was a gloomy Sunday evening when we came across 15-year-old Yaima and 17-year-old Kumar (names changed) from Moreh Ward No. 7 who now stays at the relief camp with their families.

Yaima stays with his sick father and big brother; he lost his mother when he was a little boy while Kumar stays with his adopted mother and father at the relief camp. Kumar lost both his parents at a very early age and was adopted by his paternal uncle and wife.

Both Yaima and Kumar have completed class 8 and are about to enter class 9 at Eastern Ideal High School but both of them are slowly digressing from their academic activities and are sharing the economic burden of their families by selling detergents and incense sticks door-to-door.

“I started selling detergents and incense sticks made at the relief camp with a friend from the relief camp around two months ago. At first, we went by foot but now we rent a scooter from a relief camp inmate and sell the products door to door whenever we can,” Yaima said.


He stated that he had lost interest in his academic activities and was thinking of dropping out of school to help his family in lifting the financial burden.

“My father used to be an auto driver in Moreh but here, due to his poor health, he is unable to indulge in any livelihood activities and stays bedridden most of the time. We have to earn to keep afloat; I cannot simply go about my studies and pretend as if everything is okay,” he said.

He highlighted that he used to go to school regularly and attend classes when he first started schooling at Akampat Relief camp but gradually declined in attendance witnessing the immediate struggles and needs of his family at the relief camp.

My brother also goes door-to-door selling the products made in the relief camps, he added.
The same concerns were also shared by Kumar who started the venture to aid his family as his adopted father was also in poor health.

Kumar maintained that he and his friend were able to make a daily profit of around Rs 200-300 whenever they went out to sell products.

“We go out from the relief camp around noon and come back once we sell all the products. The profit amount is what we have left after we divide all the scooter rental and petrol charges,” he said.

Before the conflict erupted Yaima dreamt of being a singer while Kumar wished to embark on a successful venture but the conflict came down as a lightning rod and destroyed whatever small wishes they treasured.


“I still want to become a singer but that will have to wait as I have more important matters on my plate. After the conflict I sometimes think of picking up a gun and taking revenge,” Yaima stated.

He highlighted that his emotional and mental perception had been gravely affected after the conflict and that he did not feel like continuing his studies.

I want to extend aid in the conflict instead, he added.

He pointed out that most of his friends at the relief camp had dropped out of school because of the crisis and were more focused on extending help in the conflict.

Even at a young age, both teenage boys are more concerned about the immediate needs of their families and the state. Both wore a traumatic look as they recalled their traumatic façade, far beyond their age, and had nothing but remorse and vengeance to express regarding the ongoing conflict in Manipur.

The wavering fate of the two boys reveals the underlying suffering and grievances of many youths in relief camps. The question of who will claim responsibility for the losses of the academic career and future of thousands of young children at the relief camp is up for debate.

However, the glimmer of resilience and hope still shone in the eyes of the two young relief camp inmates as they waited for the challenges of tomorrow.


First published:


school dropoutmanipur crisisdisplaced studentsrelief camp inmates

RK Tayalsana

RK Tayalsana

Imphal Free Press Reporter, Imphal, Manipur


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