Eight-year-old girl Ngalapem studying under chargeable solar lamps in absence of electricity connection in Zingsui village of Manipur’s Ukhrul district Credit: EastMojo image

Ukhrul: In April 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre had said that Leisang had become the ‘last Indian village to be electrified’. However, almost two years on, Leisang and several other ‘electrified’ villages in the eastern corridors of Manipur continue to fight darkness and government apathy.

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Ironically, during the ongoing budget session, state power minister Th Biswajit Singh reiterated that several border villages including Mapum, Pushing and Zingsui have been successfully ‘powered’. But when this EastMojo correspondent visited Zingsui in Ukhrul district recently, Singh’s tall claims were found to be not just untrue, but were far from the truth as one can imagine.

Around 140 households in the village still remain without any power connection. There is no wiring or electrical equipment anywhere, except for a meter box installed at the village headman’s house in 2019.

In the absence of power, villagers continue to use an aromatic wood for light — a practice followed by locals since ‘ancestral times’ — or small solar lamps.

Electric poles erected at Zingsui village in Manipur’s Ukhrul district become mere showpieces in the absence of electricity

According to Naokahao, village authority (VA) and in-charge of electricity in the area, people have not seen power supply in their village ever in their lives.

As per the locals, the wiring work had begun in 2015, but so far, it remains unfinished despite villagers spending money from their own pockets to erect the electric poles and LT wiring.

“The claim made by the power minister in the House about the electrification in our village is a total lie. The wiring system and poles have only been completed at the headman’s compound,” said Naokahao.

The locals also claimed that a transformer was installed on February 17 this year, a day before power minister made the announcement in the House, and lit up one bulb at the transformer for a few hours at night.

The lone meter-box set installed at village headman’s house in Zingsui in Manipur’s Ukhrul district

“Every year, whenever festivals approach, officials from the power department visit our village and make promises of providing power connectivity. So many festivals have come and gone but till now, promises have not been kept, the village leader added.

The villagers had also expressed their concerns over the unattended naked wires and poles lying in and around the village.

Meanwhile, many students like Ngalapem, who are studying at Zingsui Sambu High School, are compelled to study under small solar lamps. But then again, they often end up studying for only a few hours at night due to a shortage of lamps in the family.

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This is a reality in most of the families since villagers cannot afford to buy big solar plates, she said.

Meanwhile, after the power minster’s statement in the House, Ukhrul MLA Alfred Arthur Kanngam along with Manipur State Power Distribution Company Limited (MSPDCL) executive director Shantikumar visited the border villages and took stock of the power situation in the region.

Roads being constructed along the stretch of eastern corridors of Manipur in Ukhrul district

However, a heated argument between the villagers and officials was witnessed during the course of interaction as villagers expressed their resentment over the false promises made by the authorities and the delay in project completion.

According to officials, shortage of manpower and deplorable road conditions have hindered the work progress and had assured the locals that the wiring connection for consumers would be completed within two weeks’ time.

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