Imphal: The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), a tribal body, has strongly condemned the Manipur government for supporting a proposal aimed at securing funding from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for Meitei NGOs, a non-tribal organisation, under the guise of tribal development.
In a statement issued by Ginza Vúalzong, Media & Publicity, ITLF on Monday alleged that on October 23, 2023, chief minister Biren Singh submitted a proposal to Union Minister of Tribal Affairs, Arjun Munda, claiming to foster sustainable employment and self-reliance among Manipur’s tribal population.
“This distressing revelation uncovers a disturbing narrative of systematic injustice, corruption, and discrimination against the indigenous tribal communities of Manipur,” it stated.
The tribal body also stated that the revelation that these projects amount to over Rs 3 crore deepens the concern, given the sinister reality lurking behind these seemingly well-intentioned words.
It further mentioned that the proposal, endorsed by the Manipur State Government, asserts that these Meitei (primarily General category) NGOs operate in remote tribal districts and areas. However, it is crucial to inform the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Union Minister Arjun Munda that the Kuki-Zo tribals are entirely oblivious to any projects or initiatives undertaken by these NGOs to date, purportedly for the betterment of the tribal communities, added the ITLF.
“It is our profound suspicion that these Meitei NGOs, conveniently headquartered in Imphal, are exploiting the tribal community as a means to secure project funds from the Centre, which the State Government can and likely will divert for their own undisclosed purposes,” said the body.
The ITLF also alleged that this revelation, among other ominous aspects, includes an audacious demand by the Meiteis for Scheduled Tribe (ST) quota benefits, in an apparent attempt to capitalise on the financial advantages associated with this category. This is despite their existing classification and protection under the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Other Backward Class (OBC) categories.
“The actions of the Manipur State Government and the allegations of exploitation by the Meitei NGOs shine a harsh light on Manipur’s increasingly divided and troubled socio-political landscape where everything is for, by and of the Meitei,” it stated.
The ITLF further urged the Ministry of Tribal Affairs to scrutinise this matter and ensure that the continued violation and denial of human rights and development and the neglect of constitutional principles by the Meitei-centric Manipur state government are promptly addressed.
It may be noted that on October 23, 2023, in his letter to the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Arjun Munde, chief minister N Biren Singh stated that there are tribal inhabitants in all the 16 districts of Manipur constituting a major part of the population is the state. The chief minister also stated that empowerment of tribal communities in Manipur, therefore, has a significant impact on accelerating the overall socio-economic development trajectory of Manipur.
“Towards this objective, Manipur Khadi and Village Industries Board, a statutory body established under the Manipur Khadi and Village Industries Board Act, 1966, has prepared a Detailed Project Report for ‘Integrated Empowerment of Schedule Tribe Communities in Manipur’ for submission of the same through the state department of tribal affairs,” CM Biren Singh stated in the letter.
However, as per the letter issued by Manipur Khadi and Village Industries Board vice chairman, Wahengbam Dineshchandra Singh, none of the six NGOs recommended for different projects meant for the tribal populace are either owned by tribal people nor based in hill districts inhabited by the tribal community.
Among the six projects submitted to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, four of them are for mobile dispensary while the other two are for livelihood project.
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The six NGOs recommended for the projects include EEHUL Foundation, Konthoujam Awang Leikai in Imphal West; Empowerment of culture and rural development, Pishumthong Ningom Leirak in Imphal West; Rural community development center, Pourabi in Imphal East; Sustainable Center for development and culture, Konjeng Leikai in Imphal West; Naharol development foundation, Thangmeiband Meisnam Leikai in Imphal West and Centre for research on culture and rural empowerment.
The chief minister further urged the Union minister to favourably consider the proposal for promotion of sustainable employment and creating self-reliance amongst tribal communities in Manipur.
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