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Plot Confusion Shadows Tribal Market

IMPHAL, Dec 5: Although the Tribal Market complex, which is still under construction at New Checkon in Imphal East district has been hastily inaugurated by AICC president Sonia Gandhi during her recent visit to the State, there is still confusion over who would be allotted the plots in this market complex as there is no official order or assurance in this regard from the side of the Government.

Interacting with The Sangai Express, some tribal women, who have been selling vegetables and other essential commodities on either side of road at New Checkon area, said that they have neither been told by any Govt official that they would be given plots in the tribal market complex after its completion nor the Government has issued any order in this regard.

Thus, they have no idea whether the market complex is for them or other tribal people from other hill districts, the women vendors said.

As in the case of Khwairamband Bazar, Imphal Municipal Council provides license to the women vendors. Since building of the Tribal Market complex is being constructed under MAHUD and PDA, it is understandable that license system may be followed in the allotment of plots. However, the Government has not spelt out anything in the understanding of the tribal women vendors of New Checkon area.

An under-construction Tribal Market at New Checkon, Imphal

New Checkon may have been selected as the site for construction of the Tribal Market complex on account of the sizeable settlement of various tribal groups in the area.

If this is so, then the tribal women vendors should have been at least informed and taken into confidence that the market complex is being constructed for them.

Interestingly, although the market complex has been inaugurated by AICC president Sonia Gandhi, the construction work is still far from completion.

The ongoing snail pace construction work has covered only 2/3 portion of the entire market complex and construction work is yet to be started on remaining 1/3 portion.

On the western side of the market complex, construction of six rows of market sheds have been completed. But the work on the sheds to be constructed over this building is yet to start.

Construction work of the hall above these sheds, which would serve as the night shelter for tribal women vendors who come from far flung areas is also behind scheduled.

On the eastern side of the market complex, nine sheds have been constructed and around 30 shops are to be constructed on top of this building.

In connection with the slow pace of construction work, an official source in the Tribal Development asserted that the construction work on the market complex started only in 2006. Construction work had been started under the Special Plan Assistance with the Government of India giving its approval to the Rs 7 crores project.

According to the original plan, the construction work is to be carried out initially for the ground floor. But Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh and Tribal Development Minister DD Thaisii have given instruction for construction of the upper floor as well. As the fund allotted under SPA is not enough for such a larger project, there is shortage of fund and it is estimated that a total of Rs 10 crores may be required for the construction of the entire complex, the source disclosed, adding that officials of the Department are targeting to complete entire construction work on the market complex before Christmas festival.

The source further explained that the market complex has been constructed for the tribal women who are selling vegetables and other commodities in different parts of Imphal. So, the tribal women vendors of New Checkon area as well as those in North AOC area and other who are trading their wares along the road sides in different parts of Imphal would get plots in the market complex.

In connection with issuing plot license, a joint meeting attended by Chairman of Hill Areas Committee was held last month, the source disclosed.

When The Sangai Express went to inspect the site of the construction work, some of the laborers pointed out that since the location of the market complex is far from the road, at least some of the shops located along the road side may be removed to broaden the approach road. A Ministerial team had also come for inspection in this regard earlier.

Without removing the shops, it would not be convenient for the shoppers to come to the market and construction of the market would not be of any use if no one comes to buy things being sold, they explained.

On the other hand, in the nearby New Checkon Bazar, which is also known as Purana Bazar, around 40 women vendors have been eking out their daily living through sale of vegetables and other commodities of day to day use.

Meraton, one of the women vendors, said that they have been selling vegetables and other goods at the market for the last many years. As there is no certainty as to whether the women vendors of Meitei and Meitei Pangal communities living in the area would be given plot in the newly constructed market complex, the Government should pay due attention to the development of the New Checkon Bazar as well.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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