No dearth of food, medicine; claims of shortage not true: Manipur govt tells SC

 Manipur faces no dearth of essential supplies of food and medicine, the BJP-led state government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday, as the border state in the North East battled a humongous crisis stemming from a bloody conflict between the Meitei and Kuki communities.

The Manipur government dubbed as untrue the claim by the counsel for the committee appointed by the apex court to oversee relief and rehabilitation of the victims of ethnic violence that the people of the state were suffering on account of an economic blockade.

The apex court has constituted a three-member panel headed by former chief justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Justice (retd) Gita Mittal to oversee relief and rehabilitation of the victims of the strife.

The assertions by the Manipur government were made in response to the September 1 order of the top court asking it and the Centre to ensure uninterrupted supply of basic commodities like food and medicine to people facing economic blockade in certain areas of the restive state.

The apex court had also directed the Manipur government to explore all options to deal with the blockades which were disrupting essential supplies to the state. It had said the option of air-dropping essential commodities, if needed, should be considered.

The ‘All Tribal Students Union’ had called a blockade of three major highways in the state amid the ethnic conflagration that has has left more than 160 people dead and hundreds injured.

In an affidavit filed in the top court, the chief secretary of the Manipur government said it was unfortunate that the platform of the Supreme Court was being “misutilised”.

The claims made by the counsel for the committee and other applicants/petitioners during the course of hearing were without any factual basis, it said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and the state government, said essential supplies had been air-dropped even before the top court made the suggestion on September 1.

“It is submitted that this court must take serious note of the same and disallow any such attempts considering the sensitivity of the situation and the purity of court proceedings especially in the public interest jurisdiction that the petitioners have sought to invoke,” the affidavit stated.

About the damage caused to religious places during the ethnic violence, the state government claimed the petitioners have made attempts to portray an incorrect position before the court where one community was shown as the victim and the other as aggressor.

“The State and Union of India have always maintained a neutral stand on the issue and have specifically not sought to selectively highlight some incidents over others.

“This approach of the Applicants/Petitioners to selectively pick and choose instances, places and occurrences portraying an incomplete picture, clearly highlight that attempts have been made to mislead this court and to utilise the platform of this court,” the affidavit stated.

The Manipur government told the apex court in its 15-page affidavit that as on date 386 religious institutions of both the communities-the majority Meiteis and tribal Kukis- have suffered damage.

“The Government is committed to rehabilitate the loss and the damage suffered. It is also submitted that no fresh damage to religious institutions are reported for the last month or so.

“The State and the Union of India are committed for restoration and for providing all possible assistance to such religious institutions irrespective of which community/religion such institutions belong to,” it said.

The state government said in the affidavit it was informed about food shortage and outbreak of measles and chickenpox in some parts of the state by some lawyers.

“It is submitted that the said claims seem to have been made without any factual verification and without any consultation with the relevant Government authorities which have created panic. It is submitted that Petitioners/Applicants were confining their argument only to Moreh, however, the State of Manipur is handling and taking care of the entire State,” it said.

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‘It is submitted that the alleged reports of measles/ chickenpox outbreak are not borne out from the record. It has been confirmed by the medical team in Moreh that there is only one case of chickenpox in Moreh, and the said patient is not a resident of the relief camp,” the affidavit said.

It said the claims made during the hearing were absolutely false and added it was unfortunate that those were highlighted by the counsel for the committee before the apex court without first confirming or discussing the issue with the relevant government authorities.

The state government said in order to ensure that adequate supplies of essential items are maintained in relief camps, daily reviews are being conducted with the district administration.

It said additional security personnel were being deployed along the National Highway 37 to ensure unhindered movement of convoys carrying essential items from Jiribam to Imphal.

The state government said in order to control prices of essential commodities, reports were obtained from multiple sources.

“In case of significant increase in prices, District Administration has also been instructed to undertake sale of essential items as subsidised prices.

“Supply of Essential Medicines to Relief Camps/Districts is monitored regularly by the Commissioner (Health) with weekly meetings conducted with all the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) of the Districts. Medicines are supplied to the Districts from Imphal through Ambulances, Security Forces’ convoys and even Helicopters in cases of emergencies,” it said.

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