Imphal, Mar 14:
Showing serious concerns about the present socio-political issues of Manipur the Naga Youth Forum Manipur (NYFM) has called for a mass movement and urged the concerned government authority to identify and delete the fictitious villages, bogus populations, bogus Aadhar Cards, and Voter Identity Cards, and to derecognise Chieftainship heading multiple villages and also to enact appropriate laws for new village recognition.
The Naga Youth Forum also expressed strong apprehension about the massive loss of forest as well as unprecedented growth of villages in Kangpokpi and Churachandpur areas as well as massive plantation of poppies inside Reserved Forest and Protected Forest areas.
The statement of the Naga Youth Forum Manipur signed by its President Amu Pamei said that Manipur has been in the national news recently for the massive loss of forest cover. According to India’s Forest Report 2021, Manipur recorded a loss in forest cover of 249 sq. km in 2021 compared to forest cover in 2019. In 2019, forest cover loss was 499 sq. km as compared to the previous assessment in 2017. From 2017 to 2019, Manipur lost a total forest cover of 758 sq. km. This is in contrast with the increase of 2,261 sq. km in the total forest and tree cover for the whole country during 2019-21. Deforestation to facilitate poppy cultivation has been mainly responsible for most of the forest cover loss during this period.
Correspondingly, drug trafficking has also been on the rise as evidenced by the massive seizure of drugs in the state. Drugs originating from the neighbouring countries and trafficked through the state have also been seized in other parts of the country. Responding to this critical situation, the Government of Manipur under the leadership of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh has been undertaking a massive campaign against drugs under the banner of “War on Drugs” since November 2018. In the process of the drive against poppy cultivation, it has been found that many areas under the reserve forest and protected forests are under poppy cultivation. Many illegal encroachers were also found within these forest areas. This led to the investigation into the existence of many illegal settlements within forest areas.
For instance, K. Songjang Village evicted recently from Churachandpur-Khoupum Protected Forest is a new settlement established in 2021. As per the statement of the Forest department, the establishment of a new village inside a Protected village violates Section 30 (C) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, Rule No. 73 (4), 73(5) of Manipur Forest Rules 2021, Section 2(ii) of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and Hon’ble Supreme Court Order dated 12.12.1996 passed in WP(C) No.202 of 1995 and is treated as encroachment in the Protected Forest.
Besides the long-term impact of climatic change, another immediate big impact of deforestation is that Manipur is facing floods during the rainy season and drought, and a shortage of drinking water during winter. The massive herbicides and fertilisers used for poppy cultivation have become a big cause of health hazards.
Many new villages, both recognised and unrecognised, have been detected in the follow-up investigation. There have been instances where more than 10 villages in different districts under a single village chief are recognised. The villages were also found to be named after their forefathers and not by location. It is also very alarming that many villages with fictitious populations, Aadhar cards and voter ids have also been found.
The process of timely streamlining has so far been blocked by the elected representatives for their selfish ends. Sadar Hills (present Kangpokpi) had 179 villages in 1969 which has grown into massive 534 villages in 2021, an impossible growth of 198%. This can be compared to the growth of villages in Senapati District with 126 villages in 1969 and 140 in 2021, a growth of 11% growth. Similarly, Churachandpur had 216 villages in 1969 and 544 villages in 2021, a growth of 150%. Tengnoupal and Chandel had 232 in 1969 and it has increased to 446 in 2021, a growth of 100%. Tamenglong and Noney recorded a growth of 29%. Ukhrul and Kamjong district has recorded a negative growth of 6% in the number of villages.
Correspondingly an attempt to control land and resources has been translated into a political movement demanding a separate political status. This has resulted in socio-political issues in Manipur. This is evidenced by the recent agitation launched by some sections of people in support of the illegal encroachment in the reserve and protected forests.
A mass social movement is the need of the hour to address the present artificial socio-political issue created by vested interests. It is the moral responsibility and bounden duty of all those who desire a peaceful and prosperous society, irrespective of their caste, cress or ethnic affiliation.