Manipur's Kwatha villagers living in deplorable condition as government programmes fail to reach them
As the government is trying to convert everything into “e” process starting from applying schemes, education, workshops, cashless transactions and others, “we are not even getting the facility of a clear phone call,” a villager told the Imphal Free Press.
ByB Rakesh Sharma
Updated 27 May 2022, 4:02 pm
The villagers of Kwatha Khunjao, located in remote Indo-Myanmar border, which is 18 km away from Moreh town in Tengnoupal district have been living a miserable life. The various welfare programmes of the government are yet to reach them. And, the village lacks basic facilities.
The Primary Health Sub Centre at the village does not have a single doctor and is operated by only two nurses. The high school in the village is also operated by the local youths as none of the teachers turned up since the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it was set up as a high school, classes KG to VI are being conducted in the school.
Due to unavailability of doctors, the villagers have to rush to the nearest Moreh town for any complicated health issue and emergency cases or to hospitals in Imphal or Kakching, spending a large amount of money, secretary of Kwatha Khunou village, Takhelambam Sanjoy informed while speaking exclusively to the Imphal Free Press.
The village secretary said that as there is no college, nor secondary school nearby and no regular public transport service, youths have to stay in Moreh, Kakching or Imphal for pursuing their studies, spending additional cash for rent and food.
“In this way, the few earnings of the villagers are spent on the healthcare and education sector, making Kwatha villagers economically unstable,” the village secretary stated.
While this IFP reporter interacted with a few youths of the village, they informed that poor mobile network connectivity has left the villagers of Kwatha behind the rest of the world in this age of information and technology (IT).
"In this way we are left behind in everything, especially when our generation, residing in other villages, had gained a lot of useful knowledge through the internet,” said Mina, one of the youths.
As the government is trying to convert everything into “e” process starting from applying schemes, education, workshops, cashless transactions and others, “we are not even getting the facility of a clear phone call,” Mina said.
She drew the attention of the state government for proper internet connectivity in the village, considering the youths who are left behind in the competitive world in terms of information technology.
According to the data available from the Village Authority of Kwatha Khunjao, the village has a population of only 327 with a total of 87 households having a literacy rate of only 40 per cent.
The main occupation of the villagers is production of charcoal and soibum (fermented bamboo shoot), and plantation of seasonal vegetables. Kwatha village is considered as one of the main quality exporters of soibum in Manipur.
In terms of geographical area, the village has an enormous potential for tourism, with a beautiful landscape covered by rich biodiversity and a waterfall.
Many Imphal-based tourists visited the village in the past during the Kwatha Festival, however, due to no guest houses nor lodging centre, tourist attention has slowly turned towards Moreh town, said the village secretary.
However, this IFP reporter witnessed a one-room rest house in the village constructed under BRGF Scheme 2011-12. The rest house is left unattended in a dilapidated condition without doors and windows.
When asked about the reason for introducing private home stay facilities, the secretary replied, “Maximum of the houses in the village are in deplorable condition as they do not have money for renovation or repairing. The question of construction of home-stay is out of the budget of the villagers.”
He said that the villagers are even ready to extend their support by way of providing space to the government or any private parties for any developmental activities to attract tourists. Surprisingly, it is learned that most of the families in the village are still using fire wood for cooking when the government had introduced a special scheme (Ujjwala Yojana) to provide free cooking gas so that the women do not have to compromise their health in smoky kitchens or wander in unsafe areas collecting firewood.
Sanjoy claimed that none of the villagers are getting the benefits of the Ujjwala Yojana. “In fact, most of the beneficiary schemes and programmes of the government do not reach Kwatha. The ‘go to hills’ and ‘go to village’ programmes of the government have not reached Kwatha,” he added.
In terms of law and order, the village has become a peaceful place without any influences of any militant groups or gangs, he said, drawing the attention of the state government to ensure that all the government policies, programmes and schemes reach Kwatha.
With the blacktopping of the 6.5 kilometres-long inter-village road leading to Kwatha village from the national highway in 2021, Kwatha is just a three hours smooth ride from Imphal, covering only 104 kilometers. The villagers are now getting regular power and water supply.