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Remembering the past famine while on the way to another famine

by Rinku Khumukcham
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The history of Manipur had witnessed two Nupi Lals in 1904 and 1939 as a result of artificial famine during British rule. Few decades later followed the students’ movement in 1965 against another artificial famine post annexation of Manipur by India. All three uprisings were revolts against the ruling government of the respective period that enabled the rich mayang businessmen to get hold of our food and trade it for their personal benefits. Innumerable lives suffered and many died fighting for the blood of the poor and against the system of the rich. As we remember the fight against the artificial famines from the past, we also need to remember that history repeats and another artificial famine is on its way. At present, people of Manipur, especially the poor, are facing the burden of the scarcity of food along with the current soaring price of rice and local foodgrains.         The very basic necessities are sold at a price that is hardly affordable for people with low income in this time of job scarcity. On the other hand, farmers are struggling and finding it difficult to grow foodgrains in the paddy fields because of no rainfall and lack of irrigation facilities. Farmers had to pay the price of the delayed and deficient monsoon. It took away their sources of income and left them empty handed at the time of this crisis. Had there been a well-planned irrigation system, the problem could have been avoided at least in some way or the other. On top of this, there has been claims of irregularities in rice distribution under National Food Security Act, either in terms of the price or quantity or frequency. It is necessary to check if the Public distribution essential items are reaching the deserving citizens or not, and not just give a clarification of well-maintained documentation of distribution by the state.
It is crucial to hear from the people and confirm if they are getting what they are supposed to be getting at the right price and time. Amidst the delayed monsoon, price hike, and irregular distributions, another major contributing factor to the nearing famine is the exploitation of workers/farmers, their lands, and sources of livelihood. For instance, the construction of Mapithel dam has destroyed the whole of Chadong village and their entire paddy field. This huge blow has created a crisis in their livelihood and worsened their daily struggle. How are they going to afford the skyrocketing prices of rice with no proper sources of income while battling to start their lives all over again? The same dam construction has also badly affected the people in and around Nungbrang village.
Sand and stone quarrying used to be their main source of income but the accumulation of stone and sand also drastically declined after the dam construction. To top it all, the recent ban on quarrying has deprived them of their only source of livelihood. All of this has resulted in the villagers struggling to find an alternative, including wood cutting in the hills and clearing of forests. This sudden shift in finding ways to survive has added up to the already existing struggle of the families, some to the extent of losing family members. While the benefits of price hike, irregularities of rice distribution, and dam constructions etc have landed in the pockets of a few rich people, the prices are paid by the poor and with their blood. Therefore, it is the duty of the government, the people, and concerned citizens to look into this holistically and take up necessary steps to fix the land and help the poor in order to avoid another artificial famine.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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