A decent two-time meal and good education for children are the expectations of a group of Myanmar citizens, who fled their country and are now taking shelter in Mizoram, from the new government in the northeastern state of India where assembly polls are scheduled on November 7.
After fleeing their country in the first part of 2021, these people, who have been living in the Sihhmui camp, expect that the Mizoram government will continue to support them by providing rations and other essential items like it was doing before September this year.
Altogether 130 people, who are presently staying in two tin-roofed halls with temporary bamboo walls, are looking for jobs to sustain their families. They would also like to access basic medical care and better amenities at their camp.
"The expectation from the new Mizoram government is that they continue providing us the ration and essential items. For the last two months, life has been difficult in the relief camp after the government stopped the supplies," Kapthang, who hails from Matupi town in Chin state of Myanmar, told PTI here.
The state government provided food, ration, water and other essential items to those living in the camp but stopped all these from September, he added.
"We do not know why, but some people say that as refugees from Manipur also came to Mizoram after the ethnic violence in that state, the government here is overburdened and stopped extending its helping hand. But occasionally, some NGOs send us ration," the 41-year-old Myanmerese said.
More than 31,000 people from Myanmar have been living in Mizoram and the state government provided them with all relief materials. These foreigners, mostly from Chin state, fled following a military coup in the neighbouring country in February 2021.
Mizoram shares a 510-km-long porous border with Myanmar.
State Home Minister Lalchamliana had earlier informed the assembly that the government released over Rs 3.8 crore as part of relief measures for the Myanmar nationals.
After the ethnic clash broke out in neighbouring Manipur in May this year, over 12,000 Kuki people fled their homes, took shelter in this state and have been receiving support from the Mizoram government. Some of them returned later.
Penga, a 54-year-old Myanmerese man, hopes that the new Mizoram government after the assembly elections are over will give some attention towards their living conditions.
"If possible, I expect livestock and some land for vegetable farming after a new government comes to power. This will help my family to sustain on its own," he added.
Polling to the 40-member Mizoram assembly will be held on November 7 and votes will be counted on December 3.
All residents of the Sihhmui relief camp, around 30 km from Aizawl city, stressed that education for their children is very important and they want the new government to look into this aspect.
"Education is essential and unfortunately our children are not getting it properly. Some children go to local government schools, which are in Mizo medium," Kapthang said.
There is another school in the locality that was set up by some teachers who had fled from Myanmar, and they teach in the native language of the neighbouring country. But that school is not recognised yet and the government does not provide any salary or support to it, he added.
"We want our children to learn English so that they will be employable and can go to other places in future. We request the government to consider this point. Most of the government schools are in Mizo and we cannot send our kids to private English medium schools as we are not Indians," Kapthang said.
Echoing similar sentiments, 38-year-old Parzing said she wants a better arrangement for her son's education in Mizoram so that he can develop himself as an employable youth.
"My son is learning the English language at Aizawl. I am spending Rs 5,000 per month for this. I had worked at a company for eight months and saved money for this. Once he completes the course, I want him to go to other parts of India for better opportunities," she added.
Suine and Megalin, both in their late twenties holding their infants in their lap, said they want proper schools for the kids as they grow up.
Mizoram School Education Minister Lalchhandama Ralte had said in August this year that 8,119 children of refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and internally displaced people from Manipur are enrolled in schools of the state.
Out of them, 6,366 students are from Myanmar, 250 from Bangladesh and 1,503 from Manipur. The students are receiving free school uniforms, and textbooks as well as mid-day meals like local pupils.
Talking about the difficulties in the relief camp, Megalin said that drinking water, bathrooms and lavatory facilities are not adequate in numbers as well as not proper.
"Also, there is no basic facility for women in the camp. So, we want the new government to think about this and do something in this regard," she said.
Kapthang said that the inmates are facing serious issues in medical care as they are not able to consult any doctor in case of illness and medicines are not available here.
"Also, there is a dearth of jobs. We are ready to work, but it's hard to find daily wage work. So most of the time, we sit at home doing nothing," he said.
Asked if they are facing any problems while looking for work, Kapthang said: "There is no discrimination at all. We go to Aizawl and work there also, but nobody ever questioned us or said anything about our ethnicity or nationality. We feel at home in Mizoram."
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