Wanted: Manipur River Protection Force

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Rajendra Kshetri
The hardly- one month-old newly formed BJP-led government in Manipur has delivered, so to say. The more-than – three – months old Economic Blockade imposed by the United Naga Council (UNC) on the Imphal – Dimapur National Highway (against the backdrop of seven newly created districts by the previous Congress government of Shri Ibobi) has been lifted – much to the relief of every Manipuri. Promise number one promised by the BJP in the run up to the recently held 11th Assembly Elections can now be said, to have been kept. To this may be added the new government’s initiative of setting up of an Anti- Corruption Cell with WhatsApp number made accessible to the public to help the government to make Manipur a corruption free-state. Mention may also be made here the government’s keen concern and desire to probe the CCTV and Traffic Light Scams. Not to forget what Shri Biren had said, soon after his first official visit to New Delhi as the first BJP chief Minister of Manipur- a first time record in the political history of post – 1949 Manipur- about the Center’s assurance to provide Highway Protection Force to the two National Highways linking Manipur to the rest of the country. Looks like we now have in Shri Nongthombam Biren Singh, ‘a government of the people by the people and for the people’. And this precisely is the reason why I would like to indulge in some loud- thinking Vis-à-vis one of the most immediate pressing needs/concern of the state of Manipur.

More than Highway Protection Force (HPF), which of course is good and necessary, what Manipur really/actually needs is River Protection Force (RPF) if rivers flowing through the valley – Imphal, Nambul, Iril, Thoubal etc- are to be saved/protected from the filthy garbage – ridden drainage that they are now turning up. Not too long ago, say some three/ four decades back, these rivers used to serve people, particularly those residing on both sides of the river banks, for their daily domestic purposes and other household needs. These rivers were life-lines for the valley people. Those were the days when Nambul River was so frequently used for navigation proposes. I still remember the unforgettable sight of ‘hi – honba’ (rowboat) from Thanga – Karaang canoeing up against the stream upto ‘Thong Nambonbi’ in the morning with their (organic) eatable items such as cabbage; Thambou; Heikak; Kambong; Koukha eggs etc. How we loved buying them from the boat at our local ‘hiden- tapham’. It was a lovely sight (something to have had seen to believe) to see the rowing boat returning so effortlessly in the afternoon (having bought what they want to buy from the ‘khwairamban keithel’) – Canoeing back home down the Nambul stream. Where have that Nambul, that navigable rowable Nambul gone now??

One of the very common sights today in and around the Imphal city is People, particularly shopkeepers, vendors, meat/chicken/fish centres throwing garbage/Plastic wastes and other non- biogradable trash in the river. Nearby bridges are used as the most common platform for throwing the garbage. Come dusk and you will see this practice/habit at any given bridge nearby you. Even well-dressed-civic sensed-looking people/couple are no exceptions. They all used their loan-bought Maruts/i10s/Bolleros/Scorpios to carry their garbage and dump them in the river.

The new BJP led government of Shri N. Biren may, seriously, consider the IDEA of setting up of an RPF if Manipur Rivers are to be saved/protected and restored into their old pristine shapes and size. The government may kick start with the following points:
1. Set up a task force by the name of Manipur River Protection Force (MRPF)
2. Keep 3/4 police personnel at every strategic point of all bridges in the valley to stop/check people from throwing garbage/wastes.
3. Impose fine/penalty on those found/caught throwing garbage.
4. Make garbage throwing (in the river) a punishable offence.

Needless to say, the aforesaid points are not exhaustive, only illustrative. One may add more keeping in mind the exigencies and priorities of the state policy planning.
The crucially important task of protecting rivers and saving them from further pollution has been and is one of the top priorities of BJP-led government at the Centre. That the Union Government is very serious about river protection is clearly evident when it recently granted the status of ‘living entities’ to ‘Ganga’ and two glaciers in the Himalayas, bringing them at par with humans.

Now the million-dollar question before Shri Biren is whether his government – the first BJP-led government in the Post-merger Manipur – is serious enough and has the CONCERN and the much-needed POLITICAL WILL to save the rivers.

(The writer is Professor of Sociology at Manipur University, Imphal and the author of “The Emergence of Meetei ‘Nationalistsm’, “District Councils in Manipur: Formation and Functioning”, and “Sociology: Perception and Conception”)

Source: The Sangai Express

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