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Manipur’s hailstorm crisis: Unmasking inequities and Governance challenges

by Aribam Bishwajit
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Manipur’s hailstorm crisis: Unmasking inequities and Governance challenges

By-Aribam Bishwajit Sharma
Imphal, May 9:

The recent hailstorm has starkly illuminated the plight of economically disadvantaged individuals who struggle to afford adequate housing. Despite governmental claims of successful housing initiatives under various schemes, the recent destruction caused by the hailstorm underscores the shortcomings in these efforts. On May 5, heavy rainfall coupled with a hailstorm ravaged over 15,000 homes and tragically resulted in one fatality. This calamitous event unfolds against a backdrop of simmering tensions between the Meitei and Kuki communities, an issue that has persisted unresolved for over a year, showcasing the government’s ineffectiveness in conflict resolution. The ongoing violence, which erupted in May 2023, has forced thousands into relief camps where they endure tremendous hardships. Consequently, the Manipur economy is reeling, and many from low-income backgrounds find themselves spending nights in relief camps due to their homes being ravaged by storms and hail.
The majority of the houses destroyed by the hailstorm were makeshift structures with tin roofs, leaving their occupants homeless. The devastation extends beyond housing, affecting poultry farms, vegetable crops, and even necessitating the temporary closure of educational institutions as a precautionary measure. The Education Department issued a statement explaining that the closures were in response to the widespread destruction and the anticipated continuation of hazardous conditions. This sequence of events underscores not only the vulnerability of marginalized communities but also the systemic challenges in providing adequate infrastructure and disaster resilience. The aftermath of the recent hailstorm also sheds light on the stark reality faced by those living below the poverty line, who often struggle to afford permanent housing solutions like pukka houses. On the day of the hailstorm, while some marveled at the unexpected transformation of Imphal streets into scenes reminiscent of snowfall in Shimla or Manali, many others were plunged into distress, fleeing for their safety. It also exposed income disparities, highlighting how the affluent continue to prosper while the poor struggle further. Students lost essential books and educational materials, while the pervasive smell of damp clothes permeated the air, serving as a reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive disaster preparedness and equitable recovery efforts.
Amidst this chaos, local authorities such as Deputy Commissioners and SDOs have been actively visiting affected areas, distributing tarpaulin sheets to temporarily cover damaged houses until more permanent solutions can be implemented. However, the surge in demand for tin roofing sheets has created shortages in the market, leaving many unable to procure essential materials for rebuilding. In response to the crisis, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh announced the release of Rs 6.90 crore from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to deputy commissioners for immediate relief efforts. Each of the 11 hill districts has been allocated Rs 40 lakh, with the five valley districts receiving Rs 50 lakh each based on population considerations. The Chief Minister also indicated a readiness to seek additional funds from the central government if required, demonstrating a proactive stance in addressing the pressing needs of affected communities. As of today, May 9, individuals are still grappling with the aftermath of the hailstorm in relief camps, facing a stark reality where the government appears to be lagging in providing essential support. Many affected homes remain without the necessary tin roofing sheets, prolonging the stay of residents in these temporary shelters.
Yesterday, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh announced that the government would commence the distribution of tin roofing sheets to those whose houses were damaged in the recent hailstorm/thunderstorm within the next 4 to 5 days. This declaration came during his inspection of numerous homes in Imphal East that bore the brunt of the natural calamity. The timeline of events, from the communal clash in May 2023 necessitating relief camps, and now the provision of relief camps for hailstorm victims, underscores a pattern of crisis response. While the government may assert its commitment to aiding the populace through social media and official statements, the prevailing reality often contradicts these assurances. This cyclical pattern highlights the need for sustained and effective long-term planning to address both immediate crises and systemic vulnerabilities within the community.

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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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