By T. Vunglallian
A 2003 Report on our National Highways reads:
‘Recently, the Manipur Road Infrastructure Development Technical Assistance Project was launched as part of a major plan prepared by the Government of India in collaboration with the World Bank, for upgrading the states’ roads, and their maintenance and rehabilitation.
The study, Infrastructure Development in Manipur unfortunately, gives undue weightage to the congestion criterion, which immediately gives it an urban bias with a focus on heavily populated elite areas having a high concentration of vehicles. The bias is also reflected in concentration of resources on the already developed areas.’ (Bold, mine)
The Connections: Districts and Highways
Part-B of my long long essay on Manipur’s Roads – ready for e-mailing to TSE and IFP on 8th August – deals specifically with the Imphal-Jiribam road, and had a 300-worded END NOTE on Jiribam and its district issue. My un-planned delay in e-mailing has given me time for a re-look.
Now 300 words have grown to 4000 words! All because the timing, or co-incidence, reference ‘district demands’ made my thinking-out-of-the-box antenna pick up some disturbing static.
Hence, I bring forward the last part of my essay right up here, because it happened to be so topical, but more so because of TSE’s 13 August, 2011 report: ‘Jiri dist demand: CM opens dialogue door’.
Today’s literally burning issue makes me dwell on a thought that disturbs viz.: Was and is this clamouring, pushing and shoving for an improved NH-37 more of a ‘kill two birds with one stone’ tactic? Meaning, on the surface, is it shouting for a better highway, while the quieter deeper aim is for a Jiribam District? Hence my Aside below:-
The NH-37 connects Imphal to Jiribam where the River Barak – before entering Assam – has to be crossed at Jirighat. Peculiarly, through some very convoluted reasoning, Jiribam, has been a Sub-Division of Imphal East District, a good 220 km away and is, in reality, over-the-hills-and-far-away. Not only that, the said sub-division hops over the whole of Tamenglong, steps over Imphal West (West!) and jumps into Imphal East. And Jiribam is, like, extreme western Manipur!
Convoluted, certainly. Communal, well camouflaged!
If not the above, one cannot help wondering why on earth, right from the beginning, Jiribam wasn’t simply just a part of either of the surrounding contiguous districts of Tamenglong or Churachandpur, like the very small plains of Moreh. Had it been so then it would have been Tamenglong’s or Churachandpur’ 2nd town (that would have had the potential of being bigger and more important than the District HQ, something like Kohima the capital and Dimapur the commercial centre! That is what it ought to have been).
Today, the demand has suddenly turned aggressive – like, if our demands are not met by 13th August, 2011, then a total blockade of NH-37 shall commence from 6 pm of 14 August! Next, of course, a tactful consideration of hardships faced due to the SHDDC blockade, and deferment of total blockade of NH-37 till August 29. In a way, it is much like copying the moves of the SHDDC, but for this deferment. However, there is a lurking suspicion that, regarding GOM’s future action, there shall be a gulf of difference between the dealings towards the SHDDC and JDDC. Only time will tell.
Manipur must now come to its sense, and do something definite, like, leave Jiribam as it is, a sub-divisional HQ of Imphal East. Or, merge it to either one of its natural ‘older, senior brothers’, Tamenglong or Churachandpur, that peer down from all sides into Jiribam’s small 284 sq. km and 50,000 population. Or, bifurcate it, with one part in Tamenglong and the other in Churachandpur, obviously using the highway as the boundary. That impersonal dividing road would have nothing communal in it. Whereas, declaring it a full-fledged district could be seen, among others, as communal. And certainly most unfair! Such an act would then, once again, deny the hills their demands that are more genuine than tiny Jiribam’s. (My hills’ demands shall be clearer a paragraph further down).
It is high time that GOM treads cautiously and wisely, for a Pandora’s box seems to be opening, especially with the ongoing demand for a Sadar Hills District and news of Tengnoupal too wanting to become a full-fledged district. Given the present imbroglio and the loud demands, i am driven to look closely at the larger picture and come up with ways to address the really genuine need for real development in the hills of Manipur. i have nothing to do with politics, vote banks and communal overtones … mine is purely ‘development’ with a capital D! i want to see all hill folks enjoy the good life with dignity, integrity and a large heart …
A Real Way Forward, Without Hurting Anyone
In search of ways forward – read that as for all-round development of the hills – i will go many steps further and demand that the hills of Manipur be made into 25 smaller and more manageable hill districts! Yes, twenty-five hill districts – 25HDs – to bring in a controlled rush of modern, sustainable and environment-friendly development!