Bandh imposed by functionaries of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) on Wednesday impacted normal life in rural areas across the five valley districts of Manipur.
PRI functionaries imposed the bandh intensifying their ongoing agitations demanding immediate release MGNREGS funds, second instalment of 15th state Finance Commission and disbursement of honorariums of the elected PRI functionaries pending for 17 months among others.
Responding to the calls of the PRI functionaries, job card holders of MGNREGS came out on the roads in their respective areas in large number and imposed the bandh, disrupting normal vehicular movements across the rural areas of the valley districts –Imphal West, Imphal East, Thoubal, Bishnupur and Kakching districts.
PRI functionaries led the beneficiaries of the MGNREGS in imposing the bandh during which police, at many places, tried to foil but failed as they continued to block the roads repeatedly. Apart from blocking the roads, they also shouted various slogans against non-release of the Central sponsored scheme while police came to clear the roads.
No untoward incident was reported during the bandh hours except the protesters engaging in heated arguments with the police when they were asked to open roads for normal traffic. Some ugly scenes of protesters engaging in heated arguments with people coming out for urgent and unavoidable works like religious related ceremonies were also reported from areas. At the same time, the protesters even forced local shops and other business establishments to close. At some places, the protesters staged sit-in-protest by blocking roads.
The problem of today’s protests was non-compliance of the COVID-19 SOPs and guidelines recently issued by the state government in the wake of ever increasing number of infections in the last around two weeks. Even though most of them wore face masks, they did not maintain social distancing and restrictions to the gathering of 20 or more people at a time.
When asked, the protesters said that they expressed concern about the infections while blaming the state government for compelling them to defy the SOPs.
At first, job card holders blamed them (PRI functionaries) for not distributing the wages of the works they had performed. However, when PRI functionaries started the protest against non-release of funds, they (job card holders) came to realise that they were not paid because of non-release of the funds by the concerned authorities of the state government.
The PRI functionaries then warned to continue the bandh on Thursday also if the state government fais to address their demands.