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Manipur bills: Fresh deadline, fresh tensions

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New Delhi: With agitators in the Manipur valley setting a fresh deadline for the state government to implement three controversial bills and the people of the hills continuing to vehemently oppose this, renewed tensions have loomed over the northeastern border state.

This week, the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) that spearheaded a three-month-long agitation earlier this year in the Valley, set a fresh deadline of December 15 for the Manipur government to implement the three bills, failing which it threatened to resume its agitation from December 16.

The people of the Valley carried out the agitation demanding the enforcement of an inner line permit system (ILPS) similar to one that are in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland to check the influx of non-Manipuris into the state.

The JCILPS says that according to the 2011 census, Manipur’s population is 2.7 million. Of this, only 1.7 million are indigenous people while the rest are people who have their roots outside the state.

Ostensibly to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people, the state government, bowing to the pressure from the agitators, convened a special session of the assembly on August 31 and passed three controversial bills – the Protection of Manipur People Bill, the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill (Seventh Amendment) and the Manipur Shops and Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill.

The very day the bills were passed, protesters, mainly comprising tribal organisations, torched five houses belonging to Congress legislators. Among them were the dwellings of Health and Family Welfare Minister Phungzathang Tonsing and Lok Sabha member from Outer Manipur Thangso Baite in Churachandpur district.

The violence and resultant police action left at least nine people dead.

According to the tribes inhabiting the hills of Manipur, the three bills would directly undermine the existing safeguards for the tribal hill areas regarding land ownership and population influx, as the primary threat for the tribal people came not from outside the state but from the Meitei people of the Valley itself.

The protests of the tribal people spread to New Delhi, with the Manipur Tribal Forum, Delhi (MTFD) holding rallies and submitting memorandums to the president as also to union ministers, including those of home, tribal affairs and development of northeastern region (DoNER), seeking the centre’s intervention in resolving the issue.

The MTFD, along with the Joint Action Committee (JAC) against the three bills, the All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) and women’s organisations, have said more than once that they did not trust the state government. They want the central government to convene a tripartite meeting and have demanded a separate administration for the hills.

With President Pranab Mukherjee not assenting to the three controversial bills and the centre yet to act on the demands of the tribal people, matters have reached a stalemate of sorts.

On Wednesday, however, Khomdram Ratan, convenor-in-charge of the JCILPS, held a press conference in Manipur capital Imphal at which he said that the indifferent attitude of the state government has led to the three bills rotting in the president’s hands.

“If the state government really wanted to save the indigenous people of the state, they should pressure the central government,” media reports quoted him as saying.

On Friday, an indefinite strike launched by the MTFD in the national capital demanding the withdrawal of the bills completed one month. Nine symbolic coffins laid out at the protest site at Jantar Mantar reveal the most tragic side of the whole saga – the bodies of the nine people killed in the protests in Churachandpur are still lying in a hospital morgue with the families refusing to claim them till the demands of the tribal people are met.

“The state government should have taken all stakeholders on board before passing the bills,” Mani Charenamei, former Lok Sabha MP from Outer Manipur constituency, told IANS at the protest site here.

Charenamei is of the opinion that the Imphal dispensation should be more sensitive to the demands of the tribal people.

“Now, if both the parties step up their movements, the state government will be compelled to somehow resolve the issue,” he said.

Addressing the protesters, the former MP said: “It has become very clear to the state government that the tribal people are not at all happy at the way they are being governed.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, an MTFD delegation met Satyendra Garg, the newly appointed joint secretary (northeast) in the home ministry, and apprised him of their demands.

“We were told that all memorandums and other documents that we had submitted have been sent to the judicial wing of the ministry,” J. Moivio, co-convenor of the MTFD, said.

“Action can also be taken only when the remarks from the judicial wing come in,” he added.

With December 15 close ahead, the question is: Who will blink first?

(Aroonim Bhuyan, IANS)

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Incidence of Hepatitis-B Virus Higher Among the Tribals in India

The Union Health Ministry said last year that in India, an estimated four crore people were suffering from Hepatitis B and some 1.2 crore were suffering from Hepatitis C

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Hepatitis C Blood Virus [HCV]. Photo Credit: michelsonmedical.org

By Sujit Chakraborty

The incidence of the Hepatitis-B virus is higher among the tribals, specially the Jarawas of the Andaman Islands and the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh, experts said.

“Hepatitis-B is still an important cause of chronic liver disease. The prevalence of the infection in higher among the tribals,” said Pradip Bhowmik, one of the country’s most renowned hepatologists and liver expert.

“Around 65 per cent of the Jarawa tribals and 21 per cent tribals in Arunachal Pradesh are affected by the virus. Except Central India, 3 to 6 per cent tribals in most parts of India are also affected.”

The Jarawas is one of the endangered tribes inhabiting the Andaman Islands and any interaction with them is prohibited by law.

“In Arunachal, the Chakma tribe has the highest percentage of the infection. More than 11 per cent of the population is affected which is a matter of concern,” Bhowmik told IANS.

On the eve of the two-day international scientific conference on liver disease, “Livercon V”, beginning on Saturday, Bhowmik said that earlier Hepatitis-C was about 0.1 per cent among voluntary blood donors.

A recent study shows that about 20 per cent of Hepatitis-C cases is transmission through injecting drugs.

“It was found earlier that Hepatitis-C was the disease of old age but new data shows that more than 30 per cent of Hepatitis-C patients are below 30 years of age and most of them have a habit of injecting drugs.”

Bhowmik said that availability of better diagnostic facilities in India was now making it possible to diagnose liver disease early leading to a reduction in complications.

Injection and medicines
Hepatitis A and E are the commonly transmitted hepatotropic viruses transmitted due to poor hygiene, contaminated food and drinking water, poor sanitation. Pixabay

“Awareness development among the health care providers is of paramount importance for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of liver diseases.”

Another hepatology expert Ajit Chowdhury said: “Alcoholic liver diseases were increasing in the country. But a chronic liver disease due to a fatty liver is gradually becoming a threat to the future generation and needs immediate intervention. Diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome are leading to chronic liver disease mostly.

“All these chronic liver diseases lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.”

Across the world, the prevalence of liver disease is increasing and mortality rates were also rising steadily.

Chowdhury said that liver transplantation has revolutionized treatment for liver diseases and India has many state-of-the-art hospitals to provide the best care.

Gradually the treatment is also becoming cost effective for the common people.

According to Bhowmik, the Indian government has targeted to make India hepatitis free by 2030.

Also Read- Punjab Bans Online Delivery of Food without Hygiene Rating

The World Health Organization has estimated that viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths globally in 2015, a number comparable to deaths due to tuberculosis worldwide.

The Union Health Ministry said last year that in India, an estimated four crore people were suffering from Hepatitis B and some 1.2 crore were suffering from Hepatitis C. (IANS)

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Manipuri Women Are Breaking Barriers, The Birthplace Of Modern Polo

"Their enthusiasm lit a desire in me to play polo. I've felt close to horses since my uncle brought them home. But before that, horses roamed about everywhere. My family was not very well off and my uncle couldn't afford to buy a horse,"

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polo
"Here is one (polo) community whose welfare is so closely tied with the welfare of the animal on which the game is played. We felt that since India did not have any women's polo tournament, Manipur could be, and should be, the home of women's polo in India," Somi Roy says. Pixabay

Polo, often thought of as a game of the rich, has also been generally dominated by men. However, a quiet revolution is taking place at the very place where it all started – the northeast Indian state of Manipur, which is considered the birthplace of modern polo.

While men had been playing this game here for centuries, the spotlight has now shifted to women of the state who now field five professional polo teams to compete with the world’s best. These Manipuri women from humble backgrounds are not only shattering stereotypes that polo is a game for men, but also that it is the privilege of the rich.

L. Somi Roy, conservationist and partner at Huntre! Equine, has been one of the main crusaders for women’s polo in the state and sees it also as a campaign to save the iconic Manipuri pony, whose numbers have been declining over the years. He says while Manipuri women traditionally did not play polo as it was an equestrian game coming out of a martial tradition, in modern times, in the 1980s, they got inspired by their male relatives.

“The All Manipur Polo Association encouraged them. About 40-45 per cent of polo players in the world are women. So we are just catching up. It’s pretty gender free as a sport, so it puts them on the level of men when they play together,” Roy tells IANS.

polo
“Playing with the United States Polo Association (USPA) team was a great experience. Though their skills are very different from ours, we could learn a lot,” she says.
Pixabay

While Manipur produces one-third of male players and three-fourths of women players in the country, Roy says most of these players from an isolated, economically-underdeveloped state are not members of the Indian Polo Association.

Yet, the state has India’s longest polo season — November to March — with two international and four state tournaments, including the Manipur Statehood Day Women’s Polo Tournament, the only such tournament in India where teams from the US, UK, Canada, Kenya, Australia and Argentina have participated alongside Manipuri girls.

The matches are held in Imphal’s Mapal Kangjeibung Stadium, the oldest running polo ground in the world.

Filmmaker Roopa Barua, who started documenting the story of women’s polo in Manipur in 2016, says a young polo sisterhood is developing in the state that ploughs on despite adversity and political turmoil.

“Around 2014-15, there was an effort to bring in international women players to play in Manipur. Part of this effort was to create a campaign to save the Manipuri pony which is endangered. I saw a symbiotic relationship developing and I followed this story for four years,” she tells IANS.

This documentation culminated in a film which intends to take the story of these strong women players to the world. The documentary film, “Daughters of the Polo God” was showcased earlier this month at the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival in New Delhi, and would also be screened at the Bombay Stock Exchange on March 26.

“Manipuri players are natural horsewomen and extremely athletic. As I stayed on throughout the tournament, I saw that women’s polo was becoming a growing story. The symbiotic relationship between women’s polo and the endangered Manipuri pony was a very unique concept,” Barua said.

polo
“Horses for centuries here are owned by people, they are trained, they are broken. And then they are let loose to graze freely in the open wetlands of Manipur.”
Pixabay

Nineteen-year-old Tanna Thoudam, one of the protagonists of the film, was inspired to play polo when she saw some women players playing in a match in 2010.

“Their enthusiasm lit a desire in me to play polo. I’ve felt close to horses since my uncle brought them home. But before that, horses roamed about everywhere. My family was not very well off and my uncle couldn’t afford to buy a horse,” she says.

Tanna joined the Assam Rifles Polo Club in 2011 and became the only junior to make it to the final Manipuri team for the 2017 Statehood Day Women’s Polo Tournament. “It was the happiest moment of my life.”

Thoinu Thoudum, founder of the Chingkhei Hunba Polo Club, says it is good to have a women’s tournament as it encourages girls to start playing polo while also showing solidarity and respect for women players.

Jetholia Thongbam started playing polo in 2016 and carried on even after her sister stopped playing following her marriage. She believes that Manipuri players are becoming better every year by playing with international players.

“Playing with the United States Polo Association (USPA) team was a great experience. Though their skills are very different from ours, we could learn a lot,” she says.

N. Ibungochoubi, Secretary of the Manipur Polo Society, says the relationship between Manipuris and horses is special.

“Horses for centuries here are owned by people, they are trained, they are broken. And then they are let loose to graze freely in the open wetlands of Manipur.”

But lately, the Manipuri ponies have lost their home to urban blight with their numbers declining from 1,893 in 2003 to just around 500 in 2014.

This is where this symbiotic relationship between humans and horses can potentially be a game-changer.

“Here is one (polo) community whose welfare is so closely tied with the welfare of the animal on which the game is played. We felt that since India did not have any women’s polo tournament, Manipur could be, and should be, the home of women’s polo in India,” Somi Roy says.

Also Read: Food Insecurity In New York, Indian-Americans Work To Raise Awareness

He adds that going to play polo in Manipur is like going to Mecca.

“For people who know the history of polo, Manipur is a special place – that’s where it all came from. And then we say it’s going to be played on the original Manipuri pony, and then we tell them that it is on the world’s oldest living polo ground. It’s a fairly irresistible invitation,” Roy adds. (IANS)

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi Inaugurates Eight Projects in Manipur

Modi arrived at Imphal amid a shutdown and boycott imposed by some underground organisations protesting against his visit

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Modi. BJP
Modi to inaugurate several infrastructure projects in Odisha. VOA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated eight projects during his one-hour visit to Manipur on Friday.

He also laid the foundation stones of four other projects which will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 1,500 crore.

Despite a boycott call given by some insurgent outfits, there was a huge crowd at Hapta Kangjeibung where Narendra Modi addressed a public meeting.

Modi said that most of the projects were delayed by the previous Congress government, thereby wasting more money. “If the projects had been completed without delay, people would have benefitted,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that helicopter services had been introduced for the people and the construction of the Jiribam-Toupul rail line was progressing.

He said that 18,000 remote villages in Manipur had been electrified.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

Narendra Modi praised Manipuri women for being in the forefront in all spheres. He recalled how Mary Kom, the international pugilist, had won fame for India.

“It is in appreciation of the brilliant sportspersons of Manipur that the National Sports University was opened in Manipur,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that Delhi was now closer to the northeastern region. He said: “As Prime Minister, I have visited the region 30 times.”

He said the Integrated Check Post at Moreh, the border town of Manipur, will benefit the people of both India and Myanmar in trade and tourism.

Also Read- US House Votes to Reopen Government, Rejects Wall Money by Donald Trump

Modi arrived at Imphal amid a shutdown and boycott imposed by some underground organisations protesting against his visit.

Normal life was disrupted during the shutdown. All shops, commercial institutes, schools and colleges were shut. (IANS)

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