The JAC organised a press conference at Tokpaching on October 22, 2021. But even as the press conference was progressing, a police team led by the officer-in-charge of Arong Nongmaikhong Police Station dispersed that gathering on the pretext that it violated COVID protocol.
Human Rights Alert (HRA) lauded the brave villagers of Tokpaching for standing firmly in demanding their rights. The rightful PDS rice for the villagers arrived on Friday after a six-month-long struggle during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Villagers of Tokpaching Laimamg Chandon Pokpi Leikai (Ward No. 9/1) and Heidroipokpi Leikai (Ward No. 9/2) of Arong Nongmaikhong Gram Panchayat, Kakching District, never got their full entitled amount of five kilograms of rice under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 nor the similar amount under the Prime Minister’s Garib Kalyan Aana Yojna (PMGKAY), HRA stated in a release.
When they started demanding the full amount, the supply had totally stopped since April 2021. Thereafter the villagers came together under the banner of Joint Action Committee (JAC) Tokpaching and put up a brave fight for their rights.
As per the Manipur Food Security Rules, 2019 a formal complaint was filed to the Deputy Commissioner (DC), Kakching on July 5, 2021 in the prescribed Form number 3, proforma for lodging complaints/grievances. But as no action was taken, on July 8, 2021, the JAC petitioned the MHRC.
Following the MHRC raising the issue, the DC Kakching submitted an “ineligible and fabricated” inquiry report on July 31, 2021, listing 110 beneficiaries. The petitioner promptly identified the errors in the official report and submitted the correct number of beneficiaries, it added.
On September, 13, 2021, the MHRC made a visit to the DC Kakching office where the officials claimed that the irregularity is due to non-linking of Aadhaar card and Priority Household card-holders. Thereafter the MHRC passed an order directing the DC and District Supply Officer, Kakching to ensure that the required rice be distributed to all the eligible beneficiaries as per the requirement of NFSA and PMGKAY and to submit the compliance report to MHRC on October 7, 2021.
The petitioner again promptly submitted the list of Aadhaar linked beneficiaries who have not yet received the PDS items from April 2021. The DC and DSO did not distribute the PDS items nor did they submit the compliance report to MHRC. On October 11, 2021, the JAC submitted an application to initiate legal proceedings against the willful disobedience of MHRC’s recommendation.
“However, the MHRC, instead of taking action against the authorities, caved into their pressure and liberally allowed the compliance report to be filed on 29.10.2021”.
The release further said that the villagers had done everything to satisfy the MHRC at considerable cost to the poor villagers, but the slow progress and its overall insensitive attitude have tested the patience of villagers. So JAC organised a press conference at Tokpaching on October 22, 2021.
But even as the press conference was progressing, a police team led by the officer-in-charge of Arong Nongmaikhong Police Station dispersed that gathering on the pretext that it violated COVID protocol.
The incident had infuriated the already indignant villagers and this mode was widely reflected in the local media, including social media. Causing much embarrassment to the authorities concerned. Hectic negotiation followed where the JAC stood firm for their rights and entitlement, the HRA press note added.