Imphal, March 18: A two-day national seminar here called for redefining development, as so far the people of Manipur have only bore the brunt of mega projects instead of benefiting from them.
The two-day seminar, which began today, has been organised by the department of social work of the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU), Regional Centre, Manipur, at its auditorium here. The theme of the seminar is Development discourse: Expanding horizons.
On the opening day today, resource persons, mostly academics, discussed the impacts of oil exploration in Manipur, Maphithel dam, issues of conflict and development, costs of conflict on development and people and the Tipaimukh project among others.
Teach ers and research scholars from Manipur University, Mizoram University, Assam University, Pondicherry University are taking part in the discourse. The experts who delivered lecturers on the opening day cited the cases of Loktak power project, Loktak management project, and oil exploration in Tamenglong and Churachandpur district as projects which were taken up without the consideration of sustainable livelihood of the affected people.
“Our basic needs are food, clothing and shelter. Other development activities should come only after these basic needs are met. So far, the mega projects taken up in Manipur only benefited contractors and the government. People have been left out,” Prof. Vanlalnghak, director of IGNTU, Regional Centre, Manipur, said.
R.K. Ranjan, director in-charge of College Development Council, Manipur University, said the livelihood of the people of Manipur depended on natural resources. If the natural resources are exploited by the government without taking into consideration the affected people’s livelihood, projects like the oil exploration would not benefit the people.
Citing an example, Jiten Yumnam, an NGO activist, said the Loktak power project 30 years ago displaced more than 50,000 people and robbed farmers of 80,000 hectares of cultivable land. The farmers and people were yet to be compensated. The resource persons emphasised the need to redefine development projects as far as Manipur was concerned and demanded that the people should be involved in major projects so that their interests were taken care of.
At the end of the seminar tomorrow, recommendations would be made to both the Centre and Manipur government to consider wishes of the people before finalising any mega project in Manipur in future.