Manipur Violence: Meiteis Block Medicines, Essential Items Supply In Churachandpur

The largest district in Manipur, Churachandpur is resided by four lakh people with only one hospital in a dearth of medicines and proper health facilities as the Meieteis refuse to lift their blockade stopping all supplies in the district.

Manipur unrest

Essential items and medicines are getting hard to find in violence-stricken Manipur which has resulted in an environment of desperation and vulnerability among the residents of the state. 

In the ongoing civil conflict between the Kuki and the Meitei communities, the Kukis had blocked National Highway 2 that led to the Imphal valley, resided majorly by the Meiteis. On the other hand, the Meiteis blocked the way towards the largest district in Manipur and vastly resided by Kukis, Churachandpur, stopping the supply of anything from outside and causing desperation among the residents there. Abiding by the Centre's call, the Kukis have lifted their blockade along NH2 but Churachandpur remains in a vulnerable position. 

Four lakh people live in Churachandpur and now 10,000 more are living in the relief camps in the district. 

There is a shortage of doctors, particularly surgeons and critical levels have been reached. Essential medical treatments, including dialysis, and medicines for cancer and anti-AIDS drugs remain out of reach for those in desperate need.

"We really need doctors during this prevailing situation. We still need more senior doctors, senior surgeons and cardiothoracic surgeons, and of course, if possible, we would be really grateful if the government could send us a heart surgeon, a cardiologist, to deal with all these bullet injuries and tackle the complicated cases of blood injuries," Dr Tinglonlei, Medical Superintendent, Churachandpur District Hospital, told PTI.

Till Saturday, the only hospital in the district had treated 288 bullet injuries since the clashes broke out there.

 The well-off population have shifted to Aizawl due to the absence of dialysis facility but the poor population do not have that option. Six teams of doctors were sent to Churachandpur from AIIMS Guwahati last month after Home Minister Amit Shah visited Manipur in May. 

"We are really grateful that two doctors were sent to Churachandpur from the AIIMS, Guwahati last month. But we need specialists for chronic diseases," Dr Tinglonlei said. The doctor also mentioned the need for surgical items and medicines. 

The gunfights in Manipur are causing a large number of bullet injuries and according to Dr Tinglonlei, the only machine capable to locate the bullets in the injured people is currently dysfunctional making the situation even worse. 

The restrictions imposed in the valley areas of the Asian Highway have affected the health facilities in Tengnoupal and Chandel districts as the supply of essential commodities are blocked.

"Our hospital has run out of medicines. Forget about specialists, even doctors for viral fever are not available. Prices of everything have more than doubled. Even if we want to pay higher prices for the sake of our children, several items are not available at the market," Chong Haokip, the president of the Women Human Rights Group of Moreh town told PTI.

Similar concerns were also voiced by the residents of Kwatha, a Meitei village. Nestled amidst six Kuki and three Naga villages, the people of Kwatha pray for peace.

"We are surrounded by Kukis, but they have not attacked us so far. We want peace as we are also facing shortages of food and medicines. So far, the Assam Rifles has been ensuring the supply of household items and medicines," T Ratna, a homemaker from the village told PTI.

Inflation in Churachandpur

The block in the supply of essential items also includes food and that has resulted in skyrocketing prices and rampant inflation in the district.

Jam, a woman, said at a Churachandpur market reportedly said, "We are paying more than Rs 250 for a tray of eggs. The rates have doubled since May. Similarly, the price of mustard leaves has increased to Rs 50 from Rs 20-25. Prices of all household items have more than doubled."

A chicken seller named Hambai spoke about the dire situation in his business, he reportedly said, "We have been receiving frozen chicken from Mizoram. The blockade has resulted in exorbitant transportation costs and significant delays in receiving essential provisions."

However, women's civil society group Meira Paibi, which has been keeping a tab on the movement of Army vehicles and supplies, said the Assam Rifles has not been acting in an impartial manner.

"We cannot allow free movement as Kuki people can transport weapons to the hill areas to attack us. We stop Assam Rifles convoys as they are suspect. Kukis have attacked us with weapons despite a huge number of Assam Rifles troops being present," Ngairangbam Baby, secretary of the Awang Sekmai Kanba Nupi Lup, said.

The Assam Rifles, however, said it has protected lives from both sides.

Official records show that more than 9,000 Meiteis were safely rescued from Churachandpur, the epicentre of the violence, while 3,500 Meiteis were rescued from Moreh.

The sustainability of the back-channel discussions to force Kuki groups to call off the blockade will be under question if roads to Churachandpur and Tengnoupal districts remain blocked.