The deserted Ima Keithel in Imphal Credit: EastMojo image

Imphal: The closure of the historic Ima Keithel or mother’s market for almost a year in Manipur has caused a loss of Rs 3,879 crore, an independent study by social researcher Serto Tondana Kom claimed.

Speaking to media persons at Manipur Press Club on Tuesday, social researcher Serto said that the state government announced closure of the three iconic mother’s market, namely Purana Keithel, Laxmi Keithel and New market from March 21, 2020, as a preventive measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

“If we calculate the number of days from the very first day of closing down the Ima Keithel till date, it has been already 304 days since no trade activities occurred at the market run by only women,” said Serto.

It has been nearly ten months since Ima market closed down and the government should understand the economic loss of Ima Keithel and it is not a good sign for the state economy, he added.

Situated in the heart of Imphal city, Ima market is a pride of Manipur as the market is considered as Asia’s largest market solely run and managed by women.

However, a total of 3,614 license holder women vendors registered under the Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC) and who has stalls at Ima market are facing severe hardships to run their families while they continue to await systematic guidelines to reopen the market from the state government.

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Social researcher Serto Tondana Kom

Speaking to EastMojo, Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC) Mayor Lokeshore Singh informed that unlike the other markets, it is difficult to maintain social distancing at Ima market since it is a very crowded market.

He further maintained that even though there is a huge impact on the economy due to closure of markets, the state has given its top priority to the pandemic to prevent further spread of the virus.

“We are planning to open the Ima market before April with proper guidelines and precautionary measures,” said the mayor.

According to Serto, the estimates of State Domestic Product (SDP) in Manipur in current prices for 2019-2020 is Rs 1,94,840 lakh per annum using the appropriate ratio, and on an average, each vendor could make a profit of Rs 353 per day.

Based on the report on 5th and 6th Economic census Manipur, there are two types of economic activities in the state: agricultural and non-agricultural. A total of 50,435 workers are engaged in agriculture, and 4,06,755 people are non-agricultural workers. Similarly, as many as 1,51,330 people are into the retail trade, of which 52,966 are women who run the retail business.

The estimated number of establishments run by women in 2020 is 52,966, which constituted 35 per cent of all the retail business establishment of Manipur, said the report.

Appreciating the women vendors at Ima market for their cooperation with the state government despite their hardships, Serto also expressed that the government should come up with some action plan to recover the loss of the state’s economy and extend assistance to the women vendors.

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