IMPHAL, Aug 31: A total of 16,050.13 hectares of cultivated land was damaged and 1,03,558 persons (58,179 adults and 45,379 minors) from 14,307 families in 264 villages affected by bamboo flowering in four sub-divisions of Churachandpur district, said a statement of the Co-ordinating Mautam Famine-Aid quoting an district administration report.
The Co-ordinating Mautaam Famine-Aid (Mautaam Puuktaw) is organizing a concert on the theme “Concert for Hungry” on September 5 under the joint initiative of the Mizo Zaimi Inzamkhawn and Zogam Artists Association with representative artists from ZOMUS.
The concert is aimed at driving funds for helping the bamboo flowering affected people of the four sub-divisions of Tipaimukh, Thanlon, Henglep and Singngat of Churchandpur district.
The district administration estimated that in 2007 a total of 16,050.13 hectares of cultivated land was damaged and 1,03,558 persons (58,179 adults and 45,379 minors) from 14,307 families in 264 villages ( out of 359 villages in Tipaimukh, Thanlon, Henglep and Singngat Sub-Divisions) of the district directly affected, it said.
Sangaikot tribal development block of Churachandpur sub-division was not included in the initial estimates but subsequently suffered the same calamity, the joint statement said.
The bamboo flowering locally known as Mautam is concurrently affecting the contiguous areas of Mizoram state. However, the glaring and unhappy difference is that the government of Mizoram is quite ably managing the crisis in their areas, it lamented.
The state relief measures are successful to the extent that some of Manipur’s affected villages at the border with Mizoram are buying rice at the lowest of rates as supplied by Mizoram government to its affected villages.
With inadequate assistance from the state government, the affected villagers are fighting a lonely and losing battle against this frightening occurrence that showed its fangs from late 2006.
The exponential increase of rodent population has devoured and laid waste to standing crops since then. This cyclical visitation has always been disastrous for the hill-folk of the region from time immemorial, the Co-ordinating Mautaam Famine-Aid observed.
More than 75 percent of the people still depend on traditional jhum cultivation and the last two years of Mautam has led to drastic fall in annual foodgrain production and a food crisis.
Further, in this particular Mautam, the problems are compounded by several unexplained events, viz. the sudden deaths of more than 30 children in Thanlon and Tipaimukh sub-divisions; animal plague and emergence of swarms of locust-like creatures, it observed.
By now, the situation is so grim that the affected people are in the throes of a famine/death-like situation, in spite of interventions by the government, they lamented.
However, the statement of the Co-ordinating Mautaam Famine-Aid said that with the successful implementation of the NREGS is in the affected areas, the plight of the people remains unchanged, simply because what was supposed to be a flagship programme of the Central government is just filling the yawning gap made by the state’s indifference.
The financial requirement for providing famine relief was calculated by the district administration at Rs. 19 crores.
The additional foodgrain requirement was worked out to be more than 8000 quintals of rice per month, the statement said adding that the inter-ministerial Central team who surveyed the area on April 30 and 31 this year observed “With or without Mautam famine the people are already suffering from severe poverty,” it recalled.
On August 2008, the government distributed only 4,500 quintals of rice under its ‘Mautam relief’. Some concerned NGOs like Aid Zomi Japan, Chennai ZCF, EFICOR, etc have been extending assistance in terms of a truck-load or two. But such help is frightfully inadequate, considering the enormity of the calamity.
Providing sufficient rice – the staple diet – to the affected people is undoubtedly a gigantic task. So given the smallness of the state government’s relief measures till date, it would be unrealistic and dangerous to expect that the government alone will be able to ensure food security to each affected citizen for several years, they stated.
So, “We should collectively shoulder the responsibility of saving life … it’s a mission, a call … that one cannot ignore. It is a challenge that we must face, and a noble war that must be fought to be won,” it quoted.
Unless we do what can be done today, tomorrow may be too late for the hungry and hopeless who are anxiously awaiting your helping hands, the organizer of the Mautaam Famine-Aid concert said while appealing all concerned individuals and groups to become a participant in the herculean effort to mitigate the sufferings and fear of death … by starvation … of one’s own citizens, the more so because the affected inhabit a remote unheard corner of India.