ALLAFUM questions the rationality of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which in its recent election manifesto had promised to accord ‘Heritage Village’ status to Champu Khangpok Floating Village in view of its unique feature as one of the few natural floating villages in the entire world. The Manipur Government is sitting idle on the issue.
The visiting Asian Development Bank team has not taken into confidence the Loktak Lake dwellers in discussions on the development of the lake, and there is no response from the ADB team to invite the fishing community to chalk out welfare schemes for the lake dwellers in their planning process, alleged Oinam Rajen, secretary of the All Loktak Lake Area Fishers Union, Manipur (ALLAFUM).
Speaking at a meet of the fishers at Champu Khangpok Floating Village on Tuesday, Rajen observed that the fishing community who have a major stake in the conservation of the lake are being kept in the dark by the Government on the visiting ADB team for discussions on development of the lake.
Meanwhile, ALLAFUM has strongly refuted the claim made by the Loktak Development Authority Chairman, Moirangthem Asnikumar that the fishers union had come to an understanding by a ‘unanimous consent’ with LDA and the Bishnupur district administration on a joint survey of the village area along with formation of a joint committee to oversee welfare activities as was uploaded by the LDA Chairman on his Facebook page and as broadcast by the All India Radio in its evening news on the 8th of this month.
On the request of the Deputy Commissioner, Bishnupur District, representatives of the Union had attended a meeting on December 8 at the DC’s office chaired by the LDA Chairman where discussions were held on welfare activities for the fishing community residing at Champu Khangpok Floating Village.
The Union while refuting the claim of the LDA Chairman that the meeting “unanimously decided to form a joint committee to manage this unique floating village and carry out a census jointly by LDA, District Administration, stakeholder departments and the dwellers of the village at the earliest” is misleading as there was no general agreement on the matter, whereas, the Union representatives had asserted that they would first consult the village community before a decision is taken on the proposal.
The Union while also refuting the claim of the LDA Chairman that, “At the conclusion of the meeting, those present from the fishing community expressed their sincere gratitude and appreciation towards our ‘People’s CM’ Shri N.Biren Singh for the state government’s commitment to provide an amount of Rs.20 lacs for the improvement of the village’ social infrastructure”, ALLAFUM has asserted that the Union has no knowledge of any such assurance from the Chief Minister nor has the Union met the Chief Minister on such an issue.
It may be recalled that on 2nd August earlier this year, the Champu Khangpok Floating Village Welfare Committee had lodged a complaint with the Officer-in-Charge of the Anti-Corruption Cell, Chief Minister’s Office, Manipur, alleging that a provision of INR 20 lacs earmarked for the village under the Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram Yojana (PMAGY) of the Department of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India for the year 2019-20, had been misappropriated and diverted to activities at Karang Island without the knowledge of the Champu Khangpok villagers.
The Union while condemning the concocted press handout of the LDA Chairman, question the rationality of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party which in its recent election manifesto had promised to accord ‘Heritage Village’ status to Champu Khangpok Floating Village in view of its unique feature as one of the few natural floating villages in the entire world, whereas the Manipur Government is sitting idle on the issue. The Union while terming it unfortunate for the delay on this matter, urge the Government to comply with its stated promise immediately in promoting the uniqueness of Loktak Lake and the floating village to the world.
The Union while appealing to the Manipur Government to respect the free, prior and informed consent of the fishing community, further appealed to the Government to consider the Loktak fishing community as priority partners in the conservation of Loktak Lake which is one of the largest freshwater inland lakes in India.
Speaking on the occasion, Champu Khangpok hut dweller Oinam Akasini Devi recalled the horrendous incident of November 2011 when Loktak Development Authority officials along with Manipur Police personnel had committed inhumane action upon the villagers by burning down hundreds of the fishers dwelling huts in an effort to evict them from the lake.
Recalling the incident, scores of fishers under the banner of ALLAFUM held a public meeting followed by a canoe rally across Loktak Lake on the 19th of last month to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Loktak Arson (2011-2013).
On 11 November, 2011 the Loktak Development Authority issued eviction notices to the residents of Khuman Yangbi, Nambul Machin and Karang Sabal residing within Loktak Lake, and in the follow-up action the LDA used heavy machinery to dismantle hundreds of the floating fishers’ huts in the Champu Khangpok Floating Village area. Between November 13 and 23 in 2011, the combined team of Manipur Police and LDA officials burnt 777 fishers’ huts built on the floating biomass.
Referring to the incident, Akasini said the villagers can no longer trust the LDA with any schemes they are coming up now. The scars are yet to be healed and the Government cannot win over the villagers with false promises, she said.