Problems of Manipur
Geography and Demography
I know Manipur for some of the most athletic, simple and honest trainees at NDA & IMA and officer colleagues. Mary Kom is the most recognized ambassador for the state.
Manipur is one of the eight states of Northeast India. It is bound by Nagaland in the North, Mizoram in the South, Assam in the West and Myanmar in the East as well as South. The total area is 22,347 sq km. Imphal, the capital lies in a 2000 sq km valley, surrounded by rugged hills and narrow valleys. Like other parts of the Northeast it is distant and poorly connected with other parts of India.
Out of a total population of approximately 3 lacs, 59% live in the valley and 41% in the hills. Meiteis constitute 27% of the population and reside in the valley (10% of the area), while Nagas, Kukis, Bamons, Pangals, Bishnupriya Manipuri are the other major ethnic groups. Tribal people constitute 30% of the population. Racially Manipuri people resemble Southeast Asians.
Manipur was a princely state of British India. By late 1930s, the princely state of Manipur negotiated with the British administration its preference to be part of India, rather than Burma. In 1949,Maharaja Budhachandra signed a Treaty of Accession merging the kingdom into India. This merger is disputed by various groups as having been completed without consensus and under duress. The Maharaja and his predecessors had exercised practically no control over the hilly tribal regions.
Manipur’s economy is primarily agriculture, forestry, cottage and trade driven. Over 70% of the population is engaged in agriculture which needs modernization to improve output. Industrial sector has not developed much. Some small industrial units have been established. Industries dealing in cement, drugs and pharmaceuticals, plastic, and steel have been set up. Handloom is an important industry. It provides employment to women. The major handloom products are ‘sarees’, bed sheets, curtains, towels, fashion garments with intricate designs, scarves, pillow covers and shawls, Forests contribute well to the economy. Cane and bamboo crafts are famous and exported to other parts of India and abroad. There is good scope for tourism, which is adversely affected by the geographical isolation and security situation. Manipur acts as India’s ‘Gateway to the East’ through Moreh and Tamu towns. There is great scope for increase of trade. Manipur has potential to become surplus in hydroelectric power, thus supporting industry and exporting power to other regions.
Major Problems of Manipur
United National Liberation Front (UNLF) founded in 1964, with the objective of seeking independence from India was the first insurgent group. Over time, many more groups, with different goals, and deriving support from diverse ethnic groups with links in other states, China and Myanmar have arisen. They run a parallel government, with illegal tax collections, extortion and robberies. The government has responded by inducting the Army and invocation of the much hated AFSPA. The armed conflict between the insurgents and the Security Forces and among themselves ( example-Naga-Kuki strife) has caused great hardship to the locals. Continued application of AFSPA has led to numerous protests, notably the long hunger strike by Irom Sharmila.
The population has grown rapidly and there has been no corresponding increase in jobs. There is an urgent need for industrial growth and exploitation of the tourism potential and increase in trade.
Poor Security Situation
Poor security situation has hampered economic growth, trade and tourism.
Landlocked Condition and Poor Connectivity
It is a landlocked state with poor road and rail connectivity. The limited lines of communication are susceptible to blockades by insurgents creating shortages of essentials in the state and increasing their hardships.
The most developed population, Meiteis is confined to the Imphal Valley. The state law does not permit them or outsiders to buy land in the hills. This has retarded the progress of the tribal population and the hill regions.
Manipuris, like other people of the Northeast suffer racial discrimination in other parts of India.
Big Brother Type Approach of the Centre
Policies of the Indian central government have traditionally paid little regard to local opinion and sentiments. The situation has improved marginally.
The solutions to the problems will be discussed in a separate blog.