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Manipur: Kuki Inhabited Hill Areas Face Power Cuts After Supply Damaged by Extremists

For the past few days, Kuki-dominated Churachandpur is suffering from electricity cut-off and water shortages.

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr

Kolkata: Mang Baite is a 45-year-old primary school teacher at Saiton JB School in Manipur. Unfortunately, his school is located in the buffer zone of the Meitei Kuki conflict, and it has been burnt down by extremist organizations such as Meira Paibis and Arambai Tenggols militia. Due to the ongoing conflict, most of the residents of the village where Mang Baite's school is located have fled and sought refuge in refugee camps in Churachandpur, Manipur's the second largest town, which is largely inhabited by the Kuki community.

For the past five days, there has been no electricity in Mang Baite's village. Additionally, there have been water shortages in the hill tracts where families rely on motor pumps to lift water. 

The local Churachandpur hospital, which treats patients with serious illnesses, is also facing challenges, running on a limited capacity with only essential services being provided by running diesel generators for 24 hours.

“I have not taken a bath for the last four days’ due to water scarcity. People are facing a charging crisis, and mobile phones are being charged through solar energy on an emergency basis. Even mobile phones are not working properly as they only show 2G capacity and no data capacity is available," said Mange Baite while speaking to NewsClick.

Anger against Meitei extremists is brewing in the Kuki-dominated areas as all sections of people have been affected by them, and the newborns and old aged persons are disproportionately impacted, said a tribal volunteer who wished to remain anonymous.

Meira Paibis and Arambai Tenggols allegedly cut off all supply lines to Churachandpur. In reaction, tribal volunteers issued an ultimatum to restore the supplies soon, or the government would face unprecedented action. All electric supply lines to Imphal may be cut off after 24 hours if the electricity supply to Churachandpur and adjacent areas is not restored immediately, the tribal volunteers said.

For the last three days, there has been no electricity in the Churachandpur district, reportedly due to damage to the 33 KV line near Moirang. 

The matter is now being discussed, and remedial measures are being taken at the highest level, assured state government officials. MSPDCL is the sole power distribution company in Manipur.

The power supply of Manipur depends entirely on the share of power allocated from the Central Sector Power Plants like, Loktak Hydro Electric Project, Kopili HE Project, Khandong HE Project, Assam Gas Based Power Project at Kathalguri, Agartala Gas Turbine Power Project at Ramchandranagar, Ranganadi HE Project, and Doyang HE Project and shared power plant of Tripura State Electricity Corporation Limited at Baramura.

The availability of power varies from time to time, depending on the actual power generation by these projects. The situation deteriorates when there is an outage of any generating unit(s) in any station of the central sector plants. To mitigate the gap in the demand and supply of the state, Manipur State Power Distribution Company Limited (MSPDCL) resort to selling/purchasing power through power exchange.

The state’s own generation is meagre. There is only one state-owned hydro generating station in operation, the Leimakhong Stage-I Micro Hydel plant, which has a small capacity of 600 KW. The state has diesel powerhouses that are used as standby. These are operated when the grid supply fails. They also operate the Leimakhong Heavy Fuel Based Power House, having a capacity of 36 MW, sometimes in emergency situations. The cost of generation from this unit is abnormally high.

Due to the damage to the 33KV main line near Moirang, the Kuki people have given ultimatum to the state to restore the line or they will disrupt the line passing over the dominated area. The disruption could be grave as the repair of damaged line in the hills will take a long time due to the difficult terrain and location. 

However, the Manipur government is presently repairing the damage and trying to restore electricity in Churachandpur, according to a press release of the of Manipur state electricity board. However, it also cautioned the Meitei radical organisations not to go into this treacherous terrains as the tribal volunteers can cause similar damage to electricity infrastructure in the Imphal valley. 

Speaking to NewsClick, Brig D'Souza, Army Brigadier in charge of 27 sector, said that the onus of restoring the electric supply lies with the district administration . The Kuki organisations’ want to see the Army in a mediating role, however the army officer remained tightlipped on this regard, saying that the Army code does not allow him to talk to the media regarding the Manipur issue.

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