The government has started construction of prefabricated houses for the temporary accommodation of nearly 800 internally displaced families until normalcy returns to violence-hit Manipur. But would it help alleviate the suffering of the thousands of internally displaced people who have been painfully waiting for the return of normalcy to the state and have expressed the desire to return to their villages and places they called home?
As per the official record, since the communal clashes broke out in Manipur on May 3, a total of around 70,000 people have been displaced in Manipur. Their houses and villages have been completely burned down or destroyed in the communal clashes that started on May 3. Most of the affected are from the peripheral areas, including in Imphal and some other district headquarters. They are now being accommodated in more than 350 relief camps that have been set up in the affected areas across the state.
Schools and college campuses are being utilised as relief camps to house the displaced people. And, the state government, local bodies, social workers, and well-wishers have been assisting those in relief camps with food and other essential items.
Hence, in an effort to shift the displaced people out from educational campuses to temporary accommodation until normalcy returns, the state government announced the construction of prefabricated houses in the violence-affected districts of the state.
Subsequently, the MAHUD minister recently announced, while distributing special job cards to the displaced people at a relief camp opened at the Manipur College, Imphal West, that the government will try to complete construction of the prefabricated houses within two weeks.
Following the announcement, the Imphal Free Press, along with some mediapersons, visited Yaithibi Loukol in Thoubal district, where the government has started the construction of prefabricated houses.
Yaithibi Loukol (near Khongjom War Memorial) is the place where the Manipur government has acquired land for the construction of the National Sports University. The government's acquisition of land resulted in a dispute between the landowners and the state government regarding land compensation. The locals and landowners of Yaithibi Loukol had demanded a re-survey of the acquired land.
The structural engineer of Variety Trade Complex, Premchandra Yumnam, said on the sidelines of the construction site at Yaithibi Loukol that, as per state government instructions, the company is planning to build houses that can accommodate 200 displaced families.
He said similar houses are to be constructed in most of the districts. However, for Kakching district, due to the pending approval from the district deputy commissioner, the construction work had yet to begin. He added that the company has begun construction in the Sawombung, Sajiwa, and Kwakta areas in Bishnupur district.
The construction would be started in hill districts after receiving a recommendation from the authorities concerned, official sources said.
The company is targeting to complete the work within 20 days, but it might take more time due to the unpredictable monsoon rain, he said.
The displaced families are to be accommodated in such prefabricated houses for temporary purposes until normalcy returns to Manipur.
However, questions are being raised as to how long the displaced people will stay in the prefabricated houses. Despite the state government’s claim that normalcy is returning to the state, incidents of violence are still being reported in some peripheral areas, especially at the borders of Kangpokpi, Imphal West, Bishnupur, Kakching, and Churachandpur districts.
In the last two months since the clashes began, over 50,000 central forces have been deployed in addition to the 30,000 state forces to control the crisis situation, even as the country's prime minister has yet to comment on the crisis situation in the state.
As violence continued unabated, the displaced people wanted to know when and who would douse the flames of violence in the state.
The displaced people have been staying in relief camps for over two months now, and they now long for normalcy to return so that they can go back to their old places. They do not want to move to prefabricated houses, where the state government plans to shift them as a temporary arrangement.