Will the chief minister's visit bring change in Kuilong?

N Biren is set to create history to become first Manipur chief minister to visit one of the most remote villages in the state.

ByWichamdinbo Mataina

Updated on 2 Dec 2021, 3:50 pm

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh (Photo: Twitter)

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh (Photo: Twitter)

 

Lately, in social media, if you have seen people carrying a pregnant woman or a seriously sick person on makeshift bamboo stretchers through the forest path for treatment to a nearest healthcare facility, come rain or shine, crossing rivers and mountain terrains, they are from Kuilong area in Manipur. That has been the way of life in this part of the world even before today’s various social media platforms came into existence. Locally and beyond, Kuilong or ‘Kuilong Area’ is known for its backwardness. The people of Kuilong area are elated over the announcement of the scheduled visit of state Chief Minister N Biren Singh and Governor La Ganesan to Kuilong village as part the incumbent government flagship programme ‘Go to Hill’. Earlier, the visit was scheduled for December 7, 2021. Now, it has been rescheduled for December 3, 2021. One hopes, the much-awaited chief minister’s visit is not just a mere visit but to understand well the people’s plight and prevailing issues in the area, besides building friendship with the populace ahead of the state Assembly elections.

Kuilong falls under Tamei sub division in Tamenglong district and is located in the northern part of Manipur. The latitude and longitude of Kuilong is roughly 25.354870 and 93.776520 (GPS coordinates: 25°N 93°E). Move a little towards the north-west, Maguilong (Makuinong) village is located 7 km away, and vertically towards the north, three more Liangmai villages namely Rienta (Lemta), Nallong and Chakha are located. About 5 km from Nallong or Maguilong, Manipur and Nagaland are administratively demarcated by the Barak river where Zeme villages like Mpai, Puilwa are located on the other side of the river.

Chakha village is administratively placed under Senapati district during the 1973 Delimitation Commission while Paokai was the Member of Parliament for the Outer Manipur. To the east of Kuilong, Poumai, Maram and Mao settlements under Senapati district are located at about 35 km and there is no motorable roads to reach these places other than via Chakha or Tamei.

Towards the west, Liangmai villages like Dunnong, Bamriaklong (Eleng) are located and towards the south, villages like Kadi, Tudon (Chaton), Nkou (Takou) are located followed by the Tamei Headquarter. It takes about four days on foot to reach the district HQ Tamenglong. People from the area go to Imphal via IT (Imphal-Tamenglong) road that takes four days. Neighbouring villages go to the nearest town called Peren in Nagaland to get essential commodities, and that takes two days on foot.

There has been a blueprint of motorable road for this area since the British period. The road has never been made motorable, but the alignments made in those days were used only as a village path and by the horse users. The motorable non metalled seasonal road opened for the first time in early 2000 during the tenure of Late Z Mangaibou, MLA, 52 Tamei Assembly Constituency. Thanks to PMJSY, now that laying of stone works for the road is under progress in the area.

Over the decades, the people of the area were relieved with the coming of solar panels in the absence of proper power supply, a basic need. Formerly, the people who could afford would pedal up to 45 km to Tamei to buy kerosene to light up their homes. Exactly two years ago, some of the villages from the area could taste the joy of electricity connection in their homes and with the provision of power supply in the area, the people got to taste the fruit of development.

There is no centrally run educational centre or state run mini-health centre in the entire area. Hundreds of lives could not be saved due to lack of basic health facility. The nearest health centre for the area is in Tamei. Each village has a Government Primary school and the condition of schools is nothing better than a namesake. Alas, where are all the government appointed teachers who were trained well from the highest district teaching institutes (DIET) of the state.

Our schools will never be the same once the culture of substitution is gone. But there are more than this to blame about the system of the substitution. The people’s representative, the top bureaucrats, and the top law enforcing agencies could not say a word to those substitute teachers of the state. Their power to say a word on absentee teachers were overpowered by what is called a gift which were taken by the people’s representative and bureaucrats from those teachers well before their appointments and everybody says it is the system. The people have to still look for a system to bring a change.

As a norm, when the state chief minister visits an area, every individual and village would submit memorandum of requests for many of their demands, and of course they need them. But there are only two primary things the chief minister should give priority for the area from this visit, at least in my opinion.

What are the most essential things the people living in the region need in common? The several requirements and necessities include a well-established education centre, a trade centre for a self reliant area, a telecommunication facility, a health centre, a well connected power system, a sports centre, and more. A check on the various individual schemes such as health card, PMAY, Old Age Pension Scheme, DDAY, MGNREGA, PMKVY, etc is a must instead of creating new schemes or project for the area.

It is the norm for a ruling state government to choose a beneficiary at their whims, unfortunately. PMAY-G is a housing scheme for the rural population. However, for instance, there has been lately several grievances raised by several villagers from Maguilong (Makuinong), Rienta (Lemta) and Kuilong that the recipients are chosen based on how you vote at the time of the state Assembly Elections. For instance, if you do not give or will not give your vote for Naga People’s Front (NPF) party (presently the MLA for the area is of NPF), then your names will be in the waiting list of the PMAY forever. What can the state chief minister do to ensure that the welfare schemes for the poor are going to genuine beneficiaries as he visits Kuilong village on December 3? The needs are endless.

Water and sanitation are the two things that cannot be separated. The state chief minister will experience himself this time the sanitation situation provided he goes around and see. This is one basic need for the area in order to rise and live a dignified life. When will every household get water for household use is a big question. The villagers are dreaming or struggling for something too high like IAS officer, a doctor, or an engineer from their village. Of course, they need them too. What they fail to realise is that the village harmony comes via safe, clean and easily accessible water facility. Small but daily neighbourhood issue in many villages is mainly due to water insecurity. No, they lack no water sources. There are rivers, ponds and streams, perennial water source in the hills. They need a means and modern equipments and proper water supply system and infrastructure to make use of the available water in this well-forested area.

An important thing will be to give a new life to the existing SDC Office from this visit. This office has been existing in name since 1981, the time when Haochong and Oinamlong SDC circles were established. Why would the villages pedal 45 km to Tamei to get simple needs like birth certificate, marriage certificate, and other things?

As hailing from the area, of the several necessities, two things must be done urgently and handed over in no time to the area from the CM’s visit. The first one is the road, an all weather road. Yes, there have been orders after orders for a road budget for the area. But the roads are already in a deplorable condition even before the repair or construction works are completed. The current road (metal) works for the area has been under process literally over the last eight years. One is from Tamei to Nagaland Peren-Maram road via Kuilong which will be about 80 km. Another road about 50 km that will meet Tamei-Kuilong road starts from a Kuki village called Gelnal connecting from the IT road.

There are so much of causes and justification for not delivering an all weather road for the area but the major issue to be examined would be the politicians and the contractors. It is not an easy question but what would the chief minister do or say on this? Current metalling of the roads in the area is the first time happening. They say a second reparation will come for the roads but why the road would not be built that may last for at least 10 years by now? It has been a dream for septuagenarians and octogenarians of the area to see an all weather road. It is typical of politicians to say that the concerned departments would look into it when you approach them with a question. But the chief minister should look into it by himself if he really cares for the area.

The realization of the third road that has nearly reached for the area but now nowhere to be seen is the proposed Tamenglong-Peren National Highway that will pass through the Barak river range and touch the area. What has happened of this road? Over the two years, the narratives about it have putting the blame on the villagers, that they demand a huge compensation. This, however, is not true. It’s the people who run between the funding agency and the beneficiaries. They were the ones who could not show or convince the villagers in black and white about the compensation rules of the country.  It has been reported that the so called social leaders and bureaucrats insist a blank NOC letter head from the villagers. Compensation for the tribals of the area is essential but the villagers never demanded any compensation outside of the norms. Once the land rights of tribal is gone, what other things has a tribal community to possess? Nothing. They will live under the mercy of the rich corporate.

With the establishment of road connectivity, every other thing will follow to come to this area. Myriad and unnecessary problems have been associated with our lives due to the lack of the road connectivity.

The second thing the Chief Minister should be concerned about is obvious: it is a health facility. There is an urgent need for a basic healthcare centre where one doctor and one nurse are present round the year. I myself had carried a pregnant woman for delivery or a seriously sick persons to Tamei and Peren several times, for treatment. The experience is indescribable. On one occasion (2009), we were carrying a pregnant woman to Nagaland on a stretcher. The village paths are narrow. Each side or above the path was covered by wild growth of bushes and plants. It was a rainy day. Out of nowhere in the middle of the journey, as the stretcher was carried over our heads and with the pregnant woman on top of the stretcher, the stretcher hit a beehive and bees stung the woman and all of us. It was a painful experience. Had there been a basic maternity home or a health centre nearby, life would have been easier. Unfortunately, often pregnant women died due to lack of health facility in the area. Will the state chief minister’s visit to the village result in the infrastructural change and development of a basic healthcare facility for people living in the in the area and help ease their long sufferings? The realization of a proper healthcare facility with medical staff would be more than enough to begin with.

The people of the area honestly welcome the visit of the chief minister to Kuilong.

 

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

First published:1 Dec 2021, 11:47 am

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Wichamdinbo Mataina

Wichamdinbo Mataina

Maguilong (Makuinong) Village

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