The Usoipokpi Hills of the Waithou Protected Forest is fast depleting due to the unregulated and illegal mining of hill earth from the area. The Usoipokpi Hills was once a healthy forest with greeneries all around but the present condition is heart touching with its extremely denuded and barren look.
Information culled from the authorities reveals that there have been instances when the forest field staffs got manhandled by the offenders and also being warned of dare consequences if they ever try to stop them again. There have also been instances when pictures and videos taken on the mobile phones by forest field staffs were forcibly erased at the site by the offenders along with women and children.
The officials also continued that stopping the illegal activity at the Usoipokpi hills has been the most difficult task so far by the Forest Department due to the stiff resistance and peculiar behaviour of the locals. The source also continued that even woman and children would come out shouting and surrounding whenever the officials visit the site and try to stop the activity.
The forest officials, along with the District police, have stopped the activity many times and had also charged the law breakers as per law but without much dividends as the perpetrators of law would continue their illegal activity in late night hours with flash lights and also in the early morning hours in a clandestine manner.
It may be recalled that Usoipokpi area is still under the promulgation of Section 144 of CrPC by the District Magistrate of Thoubal. The Superintendent of Police, Thoubal had also deployed police personnel at the site through an official order. On 30th December 2018, a team of forest officials were overpowered at Usoipokpi by the locals including women and children when they went there to stop the illegal activity.
The offenders even warned the officials of dare consequences including costing their lives if they ever try to come back to stop them. A combine team of Range Officer, Thoubal and Beat Officer, Koirengei have been trying to stop and seize the trucks on their way towards Imphal on the National Highway.
During the last two days, two trucks have been seized and others have escaped taking the advantage of the forest field staffs being unarmed. An FIR has also been lodged at the Singjamei Police station against a truck which has speed away and fled even after being stopped by the forest field staffs.
The forest field staffs are finding it difficult to curb the menace without being armed and the District police, with ever increasing work load in the field, are not available for the purpose all the time. Thus, enforcement of the directives of the Order of the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur in PIL No. 25 of 2017 is still an uphill task.
Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents.