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Finally, Manipur Village May Get Road Link

NEW DELHI, Feb 17: Almost two decades ago, a young Army Captain, critically injured in a gunfight with ultras, risked his life to get a young girl hit in the crossfire airlifted to safety.

With the nearest road head a six-hour walk away from the Manipur village, the officer insisted that the rescue helicopter take the girl first to the nearest hospital before returning to pick him up.

On Tuesday, the chairman of the village, which has since turned against militancy and relies on orange farming for revenue, visited the capital and met Home Secretary G K Pillai.

When Athanbou Thaimei was promised that a motorable road will finally link his village to the outside world, he broke into tears.

“We have to walk six hours to the nearest road and have been requesting a connecting road for years. It will change our lives. The Home Secretary has promised me that it will now be built soon and all the people in the village are celebrating,” Thaimei told The Indian Express.

Accompanying him was the same officer, D P K Pillay, now a Lt Col, who, despite being hit by a volley of gunfire, ensured that the village girl was rescued after an encounter in January 1994.

The officer had an extraordinary reunion with the village members, including the young girl, Maseliu Thaimei, who is now a mother of two, and the militant who pumped three bullets into him, in March last year, triggering off a renewed interest in the village.

Pillay had refused to take the first chopper out and ensured that his men first airlifted Maseliu to safety along with her brother who was injured in the chest. The chopper had returned after two hours.

The story of the Manipur village is like many others in the insurgency-hit state. Youngsters took up guns after being fed up with lack of development and opportunity.

Things changed after the events of 1994 when a little girl and boy were severely injured in a cross-fire between NSCN militants and the Army.

Seventeen years later, the village hopes that the road will not be needed for such an emergency again but is used for a different reason — to ferry oranges.

After it shunned militancy, the village has taken up orange farming seriously but the lack of a road makes it difficult to compete. “The pucca road will make it easy to get to the market. We have invited the home secretary for the orange festival in our village in October and hope he can use the new road,” Thaimei said.

Sources said the Border Roads Organization (BRO) has been asked to conduct a survey for the construction of the 15 km road to the village.

(Courtesy: Manu Pubby, Indian Express)

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