FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
IMPHAL, May 3: Tension is running high among the villagers of Gwaltabi and Thowee in Manipur following reported vandalism of several houses and properties during the general strike called by the All Tribal Chiefs Forum. The strike was in protest against the slashing of fund for the MGNREGS. There have been charges and countercharges amongst some groups.
Frsancis Ngajokpa, the Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj admits that the central funds have been slashed. For 2013-14, the State government had received Rs 219.97 crore. The state share was Rs 50 crore. He said that the fund was dispersed to the nine districts within two days. If the fund is held back longer than two days an interest of Rs 125 has to be paid. In view of the slashed fund, the mandays have to be reduced. He said that the tribal chieftains are making a hue and cry and after taking the ground reality into consideration the general strike and other forms of agitations should be called off.
During the April 30 general strike, there was a face-off between the villagers of Thowee and Gwaltabi. The non tribal residents of Gwaltabi objected to the imposition of the strike since it was not a tribal area. Some houses were vandalised and parked vehicles were also damaged. It was alleged that some valuables were also stolen. However, some tribal groups have denied it and put the number of houses which were damaged to a lower number.
Other NGOs have also condemned the contempt and underlined the need to continue the cordial relationships among the villagers. It was unimously pointed out that if the police had rushed there in time the situation would have been brought under control. However, the home minister Gaikhangam Gangmei who is not making any comment on the disturbing developments is not saying anything about the police lapses.
Manipur is a state where general strikes and blockades are imposed one after another without any break. The government had stopped taking up any actions against the NGOs which are imposing blockades and general strikes on many trifle and localised issues. During the general strike and blockades a litre of petrol is sold at Rs 140 or so at the roadside vendors while the oil pumps are locked out. Prices of all commodities are also hiked beyond the reach of the common people. There is growing suspicion that bones are thrown here and there so that there is no interference despite the fact that the supreme court ruling on blockades of the highways is clear.
The NGOs are appealing to both sides of the villagers to exercise restraint.