Imphal, May 28: The Sinlung Indigenous Peoples' Human Rights Organisation(SIPHRO) of Manipur today announced that DoNER Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer has promised to visit Tipaimukh in June to take stock of the famine-affected areas of the state.
Making this statement, the organisation's Secretary Lalremlien Neitham said, ''The members of SIPHRO yesterday appraised the Minister in New Delhi of the acute food scarcity and spread of epidemics in Tipaimukh sub-division under Churachandpur district of Manipur due to bamboo flowering.
Bamboo flowering recurs every 48-50 years and due to its recent recurrence, the sub-division is suffering under acute famine conditions and epidemics.
About 50 people, mostly infants, have died due to an unknown disease. The Manipur government had sent doctors to the affected area, but they could not reach the remote villages, which were the most affected by the disease.
As a result, the worst-hit villages were cut-off from medical attention and left to fend for themselves, the organisation claimed.
The Muli bamboo species that started flowering again from 2006 has resulted in rapid multiplication of pests like rodents, insects and wild animals.
''These animals destroyed the crops and rendered the self-reliant ''jhum'' farmers without any harvest,'' the organisation members said and added that this made famine inevitable and the agrarian population, who were totally dependent on their jhum fields, lost their livelihood.
Discussing the spread of famine in the region, the secretary said that Tipaimukh is one of the epicentres of the natural phenomenon and there were no Public Distribution System (PDS), godowns, or Village Grain Banks, where the farmers could have stored their produce safely.
''Even National Highway 150 that passes through the sub-division has not been maintained for more than 20 years,'' he alleged.
''In the face of this situation, AAY and BPL rice were being sold at as high as Rs 18 in some villages and for Rs 21 and Rs 25 in other far-flung villages,'' he alleged.
The organisation also pleaded before the Minister to initiate and stabilise Public Distribution System (PDS), Village Grain Banks (VGBs) and godown facilities to bring the situation under control.
It further demanded the Centre should declare the epicentre of gregarious bamboo flowering in Manipur's Churachandpur and the famine-hit sub-divisions of Tipaimukh, Thanlon, Singhat and Henglep in Churachandpur district as Disaster Zones.