The Mirror of Manipur || Fast, Factual and Fearless.

::EXCLUSIVE:: COVID-19 Manipur: The Japanese help that never arrived

Embassy of Japan, New Delhi

Observers are wondering how Manipur missed an opportunity of getting help from the Government of Japan when an NGO from the state, the Apunba Imagi Machasing (AIMS) had approached the Embassy of Japan, New Delhi, as far back as March 23, 2020.

TFM Report

Manipur might have missed an opportunity to receive support from the Japanese Government in the fight against COVID-19, including the much needed Oxygen plants and a dedicated COVID-19 hospital.  

On May 10, 2021 the Government of Japan and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India announced the installation of eight Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura. 

Since June last year, the Government of Japan and UNDP India, in a joint release, said that they have been jointly supporting the Government of India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic through strengthening of health and social protection systems and reviving livelihoods to address the devastating impacts on the lives of the most vulnerable population.  

Stating that in the context of the ongoing pandemic overwhelming the health system across the country, one of the key challenges has been the acute shortage of medical Oxygen, a press release stated that to ensure uninterrupted oxygen supply, the support from the people of Japan has enabled UNDP in procuring and installing eight PSA Oxygen generation plants in Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura in the Northeastern region of India. 

The hospitals, with a capacity of approximately 1,300 beds in total, have been identified in the region for these oxygen generation plants. Excess oxygen will be distributed among other health facilities in the hospitals’ vicinity. The installation sites are being prepared so that the Oxygen production can start at the earliest possible. The Government of Japan has also committed a sizable commitment of providing critical items to India, including ventilators and oxygen concentrators, the release added. 

Now, many observers of the development since the pandemic broke out are wondering how Manipur missed an opportunity of getting help from the Government of Japan when an NGO from the state, the Apunba Imagi Machasing (AIMS) had approached the Embassy of Japan, New Delhi, as far back as March 23, 2020. AIMS had requested medical equipment such as ventilators, medicine, etc including a special hospital for COVID-19 treatment. 

The Japan Embassy also replied, in an email to AIMS, expressing its willingness to help the state, and stated that the embassy needed a “formal request” from the state government and the union government. 

Consequently, March 29, 2020 AIMS wrote to the Prime Minister and Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India requesting to communicate with the Embassy of Japan through the concerned department. Manipur chief minister and governor were also approached regarding the matter. 

As there was no development, AIMS approached the then Health minister of Manipur Government, L Jayantakumar Singh in this regard. He wrote to the minister of External Affairs, Government of India, Subramanyam Jaishankar requesting him to forward the application of AIMS, Manipur to the concerned Japanese authorities.

“The Japanese authorities had replied favourably with a condition that the approach be made through the state government and the central government,” the letter mentioned. 

MP (Outer Manipur), Dr Lorho Pfoze also wrote to minister Jaishankar on August 8, 2020 requesting the same. 

In his reply to MP Dr Lorho, minister Jaisankar said that the Manipur Government “may wish to submit its proposal to the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, which is the nodal Ministry for receiving proposals from State Governments related to Official Development Assistance and evaluating them in consultation with the concerned Central Ministries”. 

Minister Jaisankar also informed that the Government of India was committed to ensuring the health and safety of its citizens and was discussing with the Government of Japan, a Program Loan for Health Sector as part of Japanese Official Developmental Assistance and Grant-in-aid for strengthening our efforts against COVID-19.

Speaking to TFM, AIMS director Atom Sunil said that officials of the Health Department of Manipur Government had approached him and a meeting was also held to discuss the matter. But since then there has been no development in this regard and the matter has been in limbo, he added. 

Interestingly, in September, 2020 in a major reshuffle Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh inducted five new faces in his council of ministers after removing six cabinet ministers, including Health minister, L Jayantakumar. CM Biren has been in-charge of Health ever since. 

The Manipur Government might have failed to further pursue the matter. As the state is reeling under the second wave of the pandemic, the health infrastructure has been stretched to its limit. The state is also in an Oxygen crisis and many are turning to buying their own Oxygen concentrators. Amidst all this, many are wondering why the state government was unable to get the help from Japan, when the country was willing to lend their support in the fight against COVID-19. Oxygen plant and dedicated COVID-19 hospital might have just changed the battle in favour of the people of the state, had the government obtained the help through the Japanese Government. 

On May 10, 2021, a joint release the Government of Japan and UNDP, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Republic of India, Satoshi Suzuki said “Japan stands with India, our friend and partner, in her efforts to fight against COVID-19 pandemic in this critical time. I am pleased that Japan is working with UNDP to provide vital oxygen generation plants for the people of India’s North East. India’s Northeast occupies a special place for Japan-India relations”. 

You might also like
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.