Imphal, Dec 11 (IANS): Ibungochoubi Ningthoukhongjam, 49, owns five mobile phones, not because he is a gadget freak but to ensure he does not lose contact during an emergency, as one cannot count on the erratic telecommunication network in the Manipuri capital plagued by months of civil unrest and supply blockages.
"Carrying five mobile phones is cumbersome. The extremely poor mobile connection forces a person like me to keep them. When the diesel supply won't reach the gensets in mobile towers, how can you expect uninterrupted communication? This State is a failure," Ningthoukhongjam told a visiting IANS correspondent.
There are many like Ningthoukhongjam, who are languishing in Manipur which is riddled with decade-old ethnic clashes, insurgency, sporadic economic blockades and the clamped under the much hated Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The recent 121-day economic blockade, brought about by a dispute between the Nagas and the Kuki tribes over the creation of a new administrative district, literally brought the entire state to its knees by pushing prices of essential commodities sky-high. The blockade led to severe shortage of essentials, petroleum products and cooking gas cylinders, besides medicines and machines, causing untold misery to Manipur residents.
Even on normal days, life in Imphal comes to a standstill after 5 pm. All you can see on the deserted roads are stray dogs and police vehicles.
Shops too down shutters after 5 pm in this city of around 250,000 people. Venturing out alone, without any plausible reason, may be foolhardy as you or your vehicle may draw unnecessary attention of the armed forces, who dot the roads, and who can ask you to produce your identity cards.
However, with their gritty determination, people have come to terms with life here. They don't bemoan the bandhs, curfews, economic blockades or other travails of life in verdant and panoramic Manipur, home to some 2.7 million people.
"We don't complain any more as there is nothing much you can do as the State government is sleeping and the Centre does not care. Movement for secession is bound to rear its head as Manipur has been forgotten by the Government of India," a local told IANS, refusing to be named.
The students from upper middle class families go to other parts of the country to pursue higher education. "Anyone who wants to pursue good education cannot do so in Manipur as, due to the numerous bandhs, education gets disrupted," said Nintagmba, who is studying in Delhi.
The prevalence of drug use is very high in this State bordering Myanmar, from where opium and other narcotics are smuggled here. Many youngsters and middle-aged people in the State are in the grip of substance abuse.
"Seeing the present state of affairs in Manipur, it does not seem that the situation will improve even after 10 years. You cannot expect a miracle when nothing has changed over the decades," said 44-year-old Imphal resident Rakesh.