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Olympic laurels bring cheer to Manipur amid COVID-19 gloom

By PTI

Imphal, Jan 1: Life and jobs in Manipur were at stake in 2021 as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the healthcare system and the economy of the state which, nevertheless, found a reason to cheer with two of its residents bringing Olympic laurels.

2021 drew to a close on a sombre note as over 1.26 lakh people were infected with the contagion and 2002 died.

The disease brought with it a set of restrictions that led to loss of livelihood for people of the agrarian state with marketplaces remaining shut for months.

Add to that, lack of rainfall left the farmers high and dry.

Much like in other parts of the country, schools and colleges were closed down in the northeastern state due to the virus onslaught, prompting the government to encourage online classes for students. However, the limited reach of the Internet and smartphones in the rugged hills and narrow valleys of Manipur left many students disadvantaged.

What came across as a pleasant surprise amid the gloom was the deployment of drones for delivering vaccines in the state, the first such initiative in Southeast Asia.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), as part of its project -- 'Drone Resource and Outreach in North-East India (I-Drone)'-- transported COVID-19 vaccines by unmanned aerial vehicles to Karang Island from Bishnupur district in October, covering a distance of 25 km.

The COVID-19 situation, which had slightly improved in mid-2021, took a turn for the worse towards the end of the year with the emergence of Omicron, a new variant of the virus that spreads rapidly. Northeast India reported its first case of the strain when a Tanzania returnee tested positive in Manipur.

During the year, five athletes from Manipur represented India at Tokyo Olympics in four disciplines --- hockey, boxing, weightlifting and judo.

Weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, a resident of Nongpok Kaching, went down in history as she clinched silver. Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced a cash reward of Rs 1 crore for the 27-year-old athlete.

Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma, who hails from Imphal East, was part of the Indian Men's hockey team that went on to bag a bronze medal.

The state had to cope with a militant ambush and a forest fire in 2021.

Early in the year, a massive wildfire broke out in the Dzukou Range of Nagaland, a popular trekking destination, and crossed over to Manipur. Large swathes of Mount Iso were reduced to ashes. It took seven days for a joint operation by the NDRF, state agencies and local volunteers to bring the blaze under control.

In November, a militant ambush shattered the tenuous peace in the hills and left a commanding officer of Assam Rifles, his wife and son, and four personnel of the force dead at Churachandpur district, close to the Myanmar border.

Two proscribed militant outfits -- the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the Manipur Naga People's Front (MNPF) — claimed responsibility for the IED blast.

Later in the year, Myanmar, which has been taken over by the country's military, handed over five insurgents of the PLA to Manipur Police.

With Manipur headed for assembly polls in 2022, political activities picked up pace in the state.

The BJP, which leads the ruling coalition, is rolling up its sleeves as it seeks to put up a better show in the upcoming polls. It had won 21 seats in the last election.

The Congress, which had emerged as the single largest party in 2017 bagging 28 seats in the 60-member House, is looking to upset the BJP applecart this time amid attempts to check defections.

The state had a new governor in La Ganeshan, who took oath in August succeeding Najma Heptulla.

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Olympic laurels bring cheer to Manipur amid COVID-19 gloom

Imphal, Jan 1: Life and jobs in Manipur were at stake in 2021 as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the healthcare system and the economy of the state which, nevertheless, found a reason to cheer with two of its residents bringing Olympic laurels.

2021 drew to a close on a sombre note as over 1.26 lakh people were infected with the contagion and 2002 died.

The disease brought with it a set of restrictions that led to loss of livelihood for people of the agrarian state with marketplaces remaining shut for months.

Add to that, lack of rainfall left the farmers high and dry.

Much like in other parts of the country, schools and colleges were closed down in the northeastern state due to the virus onslaught, prompting the government to encourage online classes for students. However, the limited reach of the Internet and smartphones in the rugged hills and narrow valleys of Manipur left many students disadvantaged.

What came across as a pleasant surprise amid the gloom was the deployment of drones for delivering vaccines in the state, the first such initiative in Southeast Asia.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), as part of its project -- 'Drone Resource and Outreach in North-East India (I-Drone)'-- transported COVID-19 vaccines by unmanned aerial vehicles to Karang Island from Bishnupur district in October, covering a distance of 25 km.

The COVID-19 situation, which had slightly improved in mid-2021, took a turn for the worse towards the end of the year with the emergence of Omicron, a new variant of the virus that spreads rapidly. Northeast India reported its first case of the strain when a Tanzania returnee tested positive in Manipur.

During the year, five athletes from Manipur represented India at Tokyo Olympics in four disciplines --- hockey, boxing, weightlifting and judo.

Weightlifter Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, a resident of Nongpok Kaching, went down in history as she clinched silver. Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced a cash reward of Rs 1 crore for the 27-year-old athlete.

Shanglakpam Nilakanta Sharma, who hails from Imphal East, was part of the Indian Men's hockey team that went on to bag a bronze medal.

The state had to cope with a militant ambush and a forest fire in 2021.

Early in the year, a massive wildfire broke out in the Dzukou Range of Nagaland, a popular trekking destination, and crossed over to Manipur. Large swathes of Mount Iso were reduced to ashes. It took seven days for a joint operation by the NDRF, state agencies and local volunteers to bring the blaze under control.

In November, a militant ambush shattered the tenuous peace in the hills and left a commanding officer of Assam Rifles, his wife and son, and four personnel of the force dead at Churachandpur district, close to the Myanmar border.

Two proscribed militant outfits -- the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the Manipur Naga People's Front (MNPF) — claimed responsibility for the IED blast.

Later in the year, Myanmar, which has been taken over by the country's military, handed over five insurgents of the PLA to Manipur Police.

With Manipur headed for assembly polls in 2022, political activities picked up pace in the state.

The BJP, which leads the ruling coalition, is rolling up its sleeves as it seeks to put up a better show in the upcoming polls. It had won 21 seats in the last election.

The Congress, which had emerged as the single largest party in 2017 bagging 28 seats in the 60-member House, is looking to upset the BJP applecart this time amid attempts to check defections.

The state had a new governor in La Ganeshan, who took oath in August succeeding Najma Heptulla.