Covid-19 pandemic occupied the centre stage throughout the year. The next that managed to grab headlines was political maneuvering in the state displayed by the BJP to take hold of power. Last but not least news that raised many eyebrows was verdict of a special ND&PS court acquitting Lhukhosei Zou of all charged levelled by state government in 2018 multi-crore drug haul case.
In 2020, the world came to grinding halt amid covid-19 induced lockdowns, travel restrictions, sweeping closer of market and public places. Manipur was not different. Covid-19 had wreaked havoc in the tiny state of India. In the beginning, the state was lauded for successfully containing covid19 spread. Chief Minister N Biren Singh won the accolade for emerging covid-free in the entire state in the month of May under his leadership after two covid positive cases reported in state were fully recovered.
However, that recognition and acknowledgement vanished into thin air within a month with covid slowly tightening its grip and claiming over 350 lives infecting more than 28,137 by the end of 2020. The chief minister, who was lauded for successful covid-19 management, had fallen victim to coronavirus. He had tested COVID-19 positive on November 15 and was forced to remain in isolation for 15 days. After his recovery, the chief minister had tweeted on December 1 to make no mistake as danger is still lurking outside.
With the world ushering in 2021, a mammoth task is lying ahead of us to pick up the pieces. However big or small it is, the world has to brace for a new normal which will never be same again.
If the Team Frontier looks back the year 2020 before bidding adieu, the three major incidents took the prominence in Manipur. Of course, Covid-19 pandemic occupied the centre stage throughout the year. The next that managed to grab headlines was political maneuvering in the state displayed by the Bharatiya Janata Party to take hold the power. Last but not least news that raised many eyebrows was verdict of a special ND&PS court acquitting former Chandel Autonomous District Council (ADC) chairman Lhukhosei Zou in 2018 multi-crore drug haul case.
Covid-19 pandemic and Manipur
The year 2020 may come to end. However, hardship and difficulties facing people due to covid-19 pandemic is likely to linger on. Education is the biggest casualty of covid-19 in Manipur. Education sector has been caught totally off-guard by coronavirus with most educational institutes and teachers still grappling to ensure education continuity.
Education systems around the world were swift to react and adapt. However, education remained totally inaccessible for learning in the state by children. The lack of resources and poor internet connectivity has deprived many children and the youth in Manipur of access to learning. Only a few private and missionary schools in Manipur have adopted online methods of teaching and learning. This exercise of knowledge transmission is concentrated only in the areas with better internet connectivity, exacerbating pre-existing education disparities by cutting the opportunities for many from economically weaker sections to access learning.
Most of the children in government schools have missed out on early childhood education in their critical year. They thus missed a stimulating and enriching environment, learning opportunities, social interaction and in some cases adequate nutrition. This is likely to compromise their longer-term healthy development, especially those children from poor and disadvantaged families.
The entire education community cannot passively sit back and observe what plays out. They must put in massive efforts to respond to the shocks to education systems in the year 2021. Otherwise, this crisis in the education sector could turn into a generational catastrophe.
Successful political maneuvering displayed by BJP
Manipur had witnessed political turmoil in 2020 with the resignation of legislators of the ruling coalition placing the BJP-led government on a sticky wicket amid the covid-19 pandemic. Four National People’s Party (NPP) MLAs, including Deputy Chief Minister Y Joykumar Singh, resigned from the BJP-led government on July 17, citing “mistreatment” and a a Trinamool Congress lawmaker and an Independent MLA withdrew their support from the Biren Singh government. Three BJP legislators also quit the party and joined the Congress plunging the BJP-led government into crisis. However, the BJP had successfully maneuvered the crisis.
The NPP legislators and the TMC and Independent MLA retracted their move a week later and returned to the ruling coalition.
The BJP-led government won the trust vote 28-16 during a special session on August 10. Hours after the trust vote, six Congress MLAs resigned as MLAs and joined the BJP. By-elections were held for five vacant seats on November 7. The BJP won four constituencies and an Independent candidate bagged one seat. He later extended support to the saffron party.
Acquitting of Lhukhosei Zou in 2018 multi-crore drug case
Acquittal of former Chandel Autonomous District Council (ADC) chairman Lhukhosei Zou, who was allegedly involved in one of the biggest high-profile drug trafficking cases, by a special ND&DS court, has raised many eyebrows. Many dubbed failure of state government to bring justice as ‘travesty of justice’.
In his verdict, Judge W Tonen Meitei of ND & PS special court stated that the prosecution has totally failed to prove the charges levelled against seven accused persons, including the former ADC chairman.
Following the verdict, widespread protests erupted urging the state government to reinvestigate the case to build up a stronger case against the accused persons, who were allegedly caught with huge consignment of drugs. They want the state government to approach the High Court of Manipur, if need be, even the Supreme Court of India and rope in the service of central agencies like the CBI.
But despite the widespread protest and hue and cry, the state government remained unmoved and adopted indifferent attitude towards the demand. People had a sneaking suspicion that certain sections of legislature, executive and judiciary itself are involved in this high profile drug haul case. People started questioning whether the government is “involved” in giving a “wrong” judgment. Vilification of civil society organisations, which were demanding retrial and re-enquiry, by the ruling party leaders aggravated a trust deficit.
A responsible government must listen to concerns of people to restore credibility of the state government’s war on drugs campaign.News that made headlines in 2020