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Ominous Start To The New Year 2024


Between riots, internal armed conflicts, external influences, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, the State appears to be headed in a directionless pathway. The political will needs to be strengthened, the leadership needs to be tightened, and the State’s Vision Document needs to be refined and spelled out in actuality

By Salam Rajesh

From the experiences of the preceding year 2023 it was not expected that the year 2024 would go smoothly without hassles, and as was presumed things did not turn out well for the global community right from day one – the New Year Day itself – with the island nation of Japan being rocked by a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake and California’s sea coast being swept furiously by massive sea surges – signs of nature’s fury.

Manipur, too, was not far behind on the list of bad news around the world with Kuki militias springing an armed assault on Manipur Police commandos at the border town of Moreh right at the beginning of the New Year, and other locations, including Tumukhong and Kadangband, in a presumed planned statement on the continued armed aggression to signal their stated position over their demand for ‘separate administration’ outside of the State’s administrative jurisdiction, apparently.

The beginning of the new calendar year for the State did not fare well with a straight-forward lockdown imposed on Tuesday, the second day of the new calendar year! A skirmish at Lilong town on the outskirts in the late evening of day one of the new calendar year left the population shocked and baffled by the outbreak of violence in the Greater Imphal limits affecting the Manipuri Muslim population residing in the town — for whatsoever reason.

At the close of the preceding year, the State Government had imposed the shutdown of schools for around a week owing to the sudden spike of cold, lashed with icy cold wind sweeping down the central Manipur valley. Scientists at the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bengaluru had forecast that the year 2024 would be exceedingly warm owing to the sudden intervention of EL Nino around August last year.

At this risk calculation, farmers in the State are cautioned to feel the impact of warmer summer season with a forecast of rainfall deficit, meaning the agricultural season this calendar year would be largely impacted by changing climatic conditions, which of course humans cannot alter. The rainfall deficit combined with ethnic riots last year had impacted crop production tremendously. Agricultural landowners received either less than half of the estimated produce or none at all in many places.

Taking the calculated risk of the continuing ethnic violence, which Kuki militias are unrelentingly keeping up to meet their demand before parliamentary elections by May this year, the calendar year 2024 is not going to be smooth sailing for Manipur’s agrarian society. The impact on crop production will be equal to a corresponding rise in prices of rice, fish and vegetables that normally come from rural Manipur.

Elsewhere around the world, Australia in the Southern Hemisphere is being hit by unprecedented summer heat and wildfires are sweeping across parts of the continent, a process that has been there for the past two years specifically, destroying homes and properties, and displacing the wildlife to a large extent.

The risks of wars and internal armed conflicts, and the increasing precedence of extreme weather events are expected to create more havoc and misery for many around the world. The increased frequency of depressions and cyclonic storm formation in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea is likely to hit the North East more seriously with each passing year. The chaos from the onslaught of nature’s fury is likely to add confusion to the internal strife that is upsetting life for many in Manipur presently.

Like in recent times when Manipur hit the headlines with the drug menace, read as accelerated illegal poppy cultivation and clandestine drug smuggling through the porous State’s international border with Myanmar, the calendar year 2024 is expected to see a continuation of the process, as much as the Lilong incident on date one earlier this week is loud and clear. If it is any consolation for the Manipur Government with its ‘War on Drugs’ campaign, Mizoram has temporarily taken over the clandestine networking of illegal drug trade with large seizures being reported almost daily without respite.

The increasing divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots is apparent with the nature of richly enclaved homesteads and establishments springing up all over the state capital region. An increase in salaries through the sixth pay commission, with a looming further increase via the seventh pay commission, may perhaps be a reason, whereas, the fundamentally suspect on the illegal drug trade may not be out of the context to see homesteads prospering out of magnitude – given the per capita income status.

On the other side of the story, the rate of environmental degradation especially in the mountainous tracts continues to be an eye sore and it perhaps needs the express attention of the State planners to define strategies to combat environmental degradation, in particular the watersheds, to check rivers drying up in the pre-and post-monsoon seasons, whereby this does impacts people’s livelihoods and affects agricultural activities to a large extent.

Availability of water is an issue that plagues the State’s natives, more specifically the urban populations, and it is a process that is going to continue through the new calendar year 2024. Much of the water bodies are clogged with invasive weeds and many have been reclaimed for human activities, minimizing the resource use of the water bodies. Unless the State comes up with effective measures in this new calendar year, the issue will become all the more complex and will hurt livelihoods and the rural economy.

The State’s proclaimed campaign on the eradication of unauthorized poppy cultivation – albeit the illegal drug trade – needs a larger and broad-based strategy in the new calendar year 2024, and beyond, to convince local people of the long-term negative impact of this pervasive human activity. The Mount Koubru is a classic example of the abstract abuse by humans on Nature, and this is quite evident in the decreasing environmental flow of the Manipur River.

So, between riots, internal armed conflicts, external influences, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, the State appears to be headed in a directionless pathway. The political will needs to be strengthened, the leadership needs to be tightened, and the State’s Vision Document needs to be refined and spelled out in actuality.

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