Monday, August 6, 2007

Manipur, another Nandigram in making?

Manipur government's decision to set up the National Institute of Technology at Lamphelpat near Imphal has run into rough weather with local residents opposing the site.

Lamphelpat is the second choice of the NIT after Kiyamgei Loukol, near Manipur University, where thousands of local residents strongly resisted the proposed acquisition of the land there in Imphal west district.

"We will oppose the construction of the NIT at Lamphelpat area for preservation of the arable fertile land for agriculture,' said the memorandum submitted to Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh by Joint Action Committee for Preservation of Lamphelpat. Kim Gangte, chairperson of JACFPL and a former member of parliament, said JACFPL would launch a series of agitation till the shifting of the NIT site from Lamphelpat and nearby Langol area.

When contacted, some members of the JACFPL said the government should not invite Nandigram-type stir in Manipur over the proposed acquisition of land at Lamphelpat. Ibobi Singh at a public function recently appealed to the people not to oppose the government's decision to establish the NIT at Lamphelpat area and sought co-operation of the people in government's effort to develop the state.

"If there is peace, we can get huge amount of funds from the centre for bringing all round development of the state,' said the chief minister asserting that officials hampering the development work would be punished.

Official sources said Manipur cabinet in July had decided to acquire 620 acres of lands at Lamphelpat and nearby Langol area for various purposes including construction of the NIT. Of the 620 acres of land, 95 acres belongs to private land owners and the rest was government land, sources said.

Sources admitted that the part of the land was 'cultivable' but the government viewed it 'necessary' the construction of the NIT and other offices at the place, which was not far from state capital complex.

They said Manipur government had first decided to set the NIT complex by acquiring private cultivable land at Kiyamgei Loukol area on the ground that the place was at a stone's throw from Manipur University.

Sources said authorities surveyed the land at Kiyamgei Loukol area amid protests by hundreds of farmers and local residents in April 2006.

Several persons who resisted the survey were injured when police made a lathi charge during the protests. A Joint Action Committee was formed by local residents and farmers of the area to launch a agitation against the proposal to construct the NIT.

The JAC had urged the government to shift the NIT on the ground that 'cultivable lands in the state have been sinking at a fast rate and taking over of land at Kiyamgei area is similar to cutting the livelihood of the people settled in the surrounding areas.' why can't the government build the NIT at nearby hill areas, the JAC asked.

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