| Sonia Gandhi inaugurates a women’s market in Imphal on Friday. Telegraph picture |
Imphal, Nov. 12: UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi today won the hearts of Manipuri women by promising three more market complexes for them, after inaugurating three newly constructed women’s markets here during her visit to launch a series of development programmes today.
Despite a one-day general strike called jointly by 17 citizen’s organisations, a large number of people turned up on the grounds of Kangla fort, where she addressed a rally.
The strike was called jointly by student bodies, human rights groups and women’s bodies protesting against the disappearance of Sana Yaima, the chairman of United National Liberation Front, who has remained untraceable since he was reportedly arrested from Dhaka in September.
On her arrival, Sonia first flew to Churachandpur district by chopper to inaugurate a multi-purpose project there.
After returning to Imphal, she paid floral tributes at the Bir Tikendrajit park in Imphal city, inaugurated three women’s markets, an annexe of the Congress Bhavan and unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the party head office in Imphal city.
Sonia also inaugurated a tribal market at New Lambulane, a Muslim girls’ hostel in the Hatta area of Imphal city, and laid the foundation stones for construction of Manipur regional centre of the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University at Makhan in Senapati district.
She also unveiled foundation stones at Kangla for an Indian National Army mega project at Moirang.
In her nearly 30-minute speech, Sonia reminded the people of Manipur about the various development activities taken up by the UPA government and promised to bring “inclusive development” to the state. “The UPA government at the Centre and Ibobi Singh government here are committed to work for the people, especially for those who are more disadvantaged,” she said.
Stating that Ima (women’s) markets were closest to her heart, Sonia announced that a sum of Rs 72 crore had been sanctioned only this morning for construction of three more women’s markets in the state.
She said Manipur had regained Kangla fort and acquired the Manipur Institute of Technology and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences after the UPA government and a Congress government came into power at the Centre and in the state.
“These are only a few projects. UPA will implement more and provide new opportunities that will benefit the people,” she said, clearly keeping in mind the forthcoming state Assembly elections, to be held in one-and-a-half year’s time.
Stating that violence did not bring lasting solutions, Sonia called upon the people of Manipur to work together with the government for restoring enduring peace in the state.
Earlier, Ibobi Singh sought more attention towards Manipur from the Union ministries, saying that due to growing discontentment, bandhs and blockades had become a part of life in the state.
Sonia donned mapan naiba (traditional Meitei apparel worn from waist to ankle), a deep red sari in Meitei style and a matching jersey, creating quite a ripple in the crowd. The crowd again went wild and chanted “long live Sonia Gandhi” when Sonia was crowned with a kajenglei, a traditional Meitei women’s headgear.
People started thronging Kangla fort well before she arrived at Imphal airport at 11am. Tight security measures were taken in and around Imphal to prevent any trouble during the programmes. There was no report of any strike-related violence.
The organisations that called the strike, however, charged that people were forcibly collected from different parts of the state and brought to the rally. “Police also brought 3,000 personnel undergoing training at Pangei police training school in civil dress to increase the crowd,” alleged O. Bikramjit, a spokesman for the 17 organisations.