Churachandpur (Lamka) town: The unplanned growth of urbanisation & its civic management systems

THE JURISDICTION of Churachandpur District Headquarters is classified as a town devoid of municipality. The roles, functions, responsibilities and powers in the town management are all vested in the Autonomous District Council, Churachandpur (ADCC). The current Chairman of ADCC is Shri Khaipao Haokip.

Lamka is the headquarters of Churachandpur district. It is 63.4 km away from the Manipur State Capital of Imphal. The town has approximately 1.2 lakh populations. The District Headquarters extends to Tuibong in the north, Lanva in the south, Rengkai in the east and Headquarter Veng in the west.

Like other ADCs in the hill districts of the State, “the ADCC does not function to its optimum level. And, it is a toothless tiger”, says Dr. Paolienthang Khongsai. Dr. Khongsai is holding a Post-doc degree in Political Science and is currently teaching in Rayburn College, Churachandpur.

Since the ADCC is found wanting of its roles and responsibilities, the town management initiatives are mostly taken up by local CSOs, Village Authorities (V/A) and the like. “We don’t have a town committee or municipality” unlike the Kangpokpi Town Committee in Kangpokpi district or Hill Tribal Council (HTC), Moreh in Tengnoupal district, “therefore, we have formed different CSOs like Vision Lamka (VL), Lamka Core, etc. to act as a policy advocacy group in dealing with township entities, informed Shri Nekkhomang Neihsial. Shri Neihsial is Chairman of Vision Lamka and a retired Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA), Ministry of Defence of the Republic of India, and currently a Member (Administrative) in the Central Administrative Tribunal, Guwahati Bench.

CSOs like VL work in tandem with the ADCC. The former would draft a roadmap for the town management styles and structures and then submit it to the State Government through the latter. Other CSOs and agencies of same purposes follow suit.

“Urbanisation in and around Lamka is at an alarming rate since the last 35 years. One of the primary causes of this in-migration is due to the influx induced by the ‘Ethnic Cleansing Campaign Against Kukis’ led by NSCN-IM in the 1990s and the Paite-Thadou fraternal friction in 1997”, narrated Col. NG Sitlhou (Retd.) and now President, Ex-Servicemen League, Dist. CCpur (Manipur).

Urbanisation is part of history as a process which human beings cannot avoid. In the context of Churachandpur town, the phenomenon occurs a little awkward. In the town, urbanisation comes more with human population than with its corresponding civic amenities or apparatuses like sanitation, drainage system, traffic management, etc. Moreover, urbanisation in the town brings about acculturation of the west. “If you wish to go to a wine shop in Dorcas Veng, you are pushed in mind, though not compulsion, to put on a dress that makes you look like a German”, exclaimed Rev. Dr. Jangkholam Haokip. Dr. Haokip is the Director of Bethesda Khankho Institute that focuses on indigenous studies reflecting on Christian values. Dr. Haokip likens this pejorative impact of urbanisation to Brian L. Pitcher’s concept of “Urban Pathology”, which may be defined in a nutshell as “human pathology that suffers from oppression in the city”. In other words, it denotes negative impacts of urbanisation in a tribal society. Churachandpur Town Aka Lamka Town is suffering from many kinds of urban pathologies including on culture and most importantly on civic management system. Absence of town planning is the sole cause of town mismanagement.

Notwithstanding its limitations, the ADCC is working with different departments of the State Government. The ADCC also chooses to work with the mentioned CSOs with its limited 27 subjects listed in The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 under Article 371 (C) of Indian Constitution. The legislative, judicial and executive powers of ADC are not fully devolved to the local body. Therefore, the ADC is opting for a local arrangement to work with the local CSOs.

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Sanitation

“The ADC Churachandpur is restricted to maintaining sanitation aspects only, in the town”, revealed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), ADCC while adding that “we are denied of all other subjects envisaged in the Council’s Act”.

The ADCC is working in partnership with about 16 NGOs. Household collection of wastes is done by those NGOs through a Consumer Card. The Executive Officer of Town Office at Hiangtam, Lamka issues a consumer card to each household of the town. Registration for the card has to be done in the Town Office. Initially, all this was carried out through a mechanism of Solid Waste Management Programme (SWMP). The solid waste garbage was classified into two categories as Dry Waste and Wet Waste separately. Only general solid wastes excluding bio-medical waste had to be collected. SWMP has now been renamed as Integrated Waste Management Programme (IWMP). IWMP deals with liquid wastes as well except for some liquid related water treatment which is a subject of Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), Churachandpur division. Therefore, under IWMP both solid and liquid wastes including sewerage system are managed by the ADCC with the help of NGOs and local CSOs and V/As.

The agencies collect wastes from each household to the dumping site at Sehken near Khuga Dam. For the time being, the ADCC has three dumping facilities, viz: (1) Plastic Recycling Plant (2) Compost Pit, and (3) Electric Incinerator. The fuel free Incinerator has a storage and burning capacity of 5,000 to 10,000 kg of waste per day. The state-of-the-art technology based Incinerator contains in it water that cleans the smoke therein and produces a clear smoke which is less hazardous to the environment and atmosphere. The NGO or Town Office will make arrangements for provision of garbage bins/ bags.

Users of Consumer Card are classified into six (6) categories, each with a User Fee per month. They are: (i) Roadside vendors and petty business (Rs. 50/-), (ii) individual households and small shops (Rs. 100/-), (iii) Shops (100 per addl. Shutters) (Rs. 200/-), (iv) Retailer shops, Churches & Workshops (Rs. 300/-), (v) Whole-sellers, School & Offices, Church Administrative Offices/Blocks (Rs. 500/-), (vi) Financial Institutions, Hospital, College (Rs. 1000/-). The monthly fees have to be paid through the collector authorized by the concerned NGOs/CSOs or the office representatives on the first week of the month. User Fees may be revised from time to time.

The CEO, ADCC is so much concerned of enforceability of its powers which in contrast is limited to sanitation only. The CEO said that she was so “optimistic of plastic sheets being converted into its multipurpose like for construction of toilets in government schools and for building walls of houses in general” and she further made an appeal that “NGOs and CSOs should always be proactive in maintaining a hygienic township”.

Drain and Road Connectivity

Drainage system and road conditions in the town are extremely bad and worst during the peak monsoon season. V. Jamkhanmang i/c EE, Public Works Department (PWD), Churachandpur Division lamented, “Journalists are being misled in their allegations that the funds meant for repair and maintenance are not utilised properly and siphoned off by the concerned authority”. He cautions that “there is not a single penny sanctioned for repair and maintenance of existing drains and roads within the jurisdiction of Lamka town”.

Worse, the EE of PWD, Churachanpur Division put that the Department has never conceived of having a collaboration with any other departments of the State Government within the district. Nor does it join hands with any NGO or CSO. He further put that “the PWD department remains totally independent”.

During peak monsoon, the carrying capacity of drains cannot contain the water flow. The structural dimensions of the drain stand at 0.3 m wide at the base and the surface at 0.6 m wide while height of the drain is 0.6m. The height between the base and surface is slanting.

There are 3 broad types of roads under the jurisdiction of the PWD: 1. Inter-Village Road (IVR); 2. Other Village Road (ODR); and 3. Major District Road (MDR) with standard widths of 5.5 m, 7.5 m and 10.75 m respectively. “We don’t deal with the State and National Highways unless entrusted to do so”, clarified the EE in-charge.

The PWD, Churachandpur Division has currently a project of bitumening five roads. The project is being taken up under the auspices of 100 Days Programme of State Government. The project has a fund allocation of 3 crores. The five roads that are being renovated have been identified by the Section Officer (SO) and Assistant Engineer (AE) of the Department. The five roads are Mary Kom Road, Thangzam Road, Red Cross road, Nehru Marg Road and Mission Road (not in order of precedence or preference). Asked about the contractors, “I don’t have any idea about who is assigned in which road”, admitted the EE i/c. The contractor allocation depends entirely on the discretionary power of the concerned MLA.

Drinking Water Supply

The Lamka town is so infamous of its drinking water provision while it has a decade-old-Khuga dam, which is less than 10 km away from the heart of the town about which I had written and got published by this daily and was titiled, “The Holy grail of Khuga Dam: Promises vs. Plights”.

The Churachandpur Division of PHED i/c Shri John Thanglienmang Singson pointed out that the PHED alone cannot be blamed for irregular drinking water supply. He asserted that “there is lack of co-ordination among PHED, PWD, MSPDCL and Water Resource Departments within the town”. The four departments are entrusted to keep the towns well-equipped with modernity. Co-ordination among them, however, is so lacking. Convergence policy has to be engendered so that a proper town planning can be undertaken with the help of concerned local CSOs.

The Executive Engineer (EE), Shri Singson warns that “the PHED’s sole responsibility is distribution of drinking water to the local populace”. He further said that “there are such entities as tools and instruments (machineries) which my department cannot deal with”.  There are enough machineries which have but, remained spoiled and unrepaired over the years. The EE i/c lamented that “whenever we dig out the soil for a pipeline, the next day other departments will go and destroy the pipeline system just to go ahead with their own department’s developmental initiatives”.

To plug in this sort of inter-department disconnect, a proper clearance system has to be put in place. Doing this would entail an understanding among the different departments. “Suppose, as a PHED initiative when we dig the soil for pipeline, having in mind about clearance law, I cannot encroach other department’s initiatives that preceded me, or we can keep space for other department’s developmental initiative likely to be taken up in future”, the optimistic PHED i/c EE proposed.

However, despite its management failure, the PHED i/c EE is positive enough in pointing out that a whopping 150 crore Rupees loan being borrowed from New Development Bank (NDB) would lead to repairing of the spoiled and defunct machineries. The three water treatment plants at K. Mongjang, Bungmual and the Khuga Dam proper would hopefully be able to meet its potential of providing the required 20 million litres of water per day to the intended beneficiaries of quality drinking water. He also attributed the failure in drinking water provision to the absence of town planning.

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Electricity Distribution

Churachandpur Division of Manipur State Power Distribution Company Limited (MSPDCL) is responsible for distribution of electricity in the district in general and the town in particular. The MSPDCL, Churachandpur Division has an installed capacity of about 40 MW for the district including Pherzawl and some pockets of Kumbi (Bishnupur Dist.) and Jiribam. Not a single unit of electricity is generated or distributed from Khuga Multi-Purpose Hydroelectric Project. The MSPDCL, CCpur Div. purchases the installed capacity of 40 MW from different electric generation companies like the NHPC, NTPC and BHEL.

Within the town jurisdiction, the MSPDCL has two power sub-stations: (1) Khengjang with 132/33/11 KV (3*5 MVA), and (2) Khominthang with 33/11 KV (2*5 MVA).

As per statistics furnished to me by Shri Lamminlen, Manager MSPDCL, CCpur Division, the following achievements have been made so far:

  1. High Mash Lamps: HMLs have been erected successfully at places like Tuibong, Rengkai, New Lamka (Dorcas Veng) and Police Station
  2. Electric Street Lamps: ESLs have successfully been erected at portions of the street between Police Station and Rengkai Bridge and is pending at places between B. Vengnom and Electricity Office and between Red Cross Road and Thangzam Road.
  3. Solar Street Lamps: SSLs have successfully been erected at portions of roads between Tuibong Bazar and Salem Veng.

Further, the MSPDCL Manager reported that 80% of prepaid electricity system has been achieved throughout Churachandpur including Pherzawl. The remaining 20% is still postpaid system that is confined in areas like Henglep sub-division, Sangaikot sub-division and partially in the Singhat sub-division.

Asked about electricity theft, the Manager of MSPDCL, Churachandpur Division thus concluded: “In my personal estimate a household steals Rs. 15/- per day, which totals to approximately Rs. 500/- in a month. This is too mean for a mature family to steal Rs. 15/- per day. So, I would request electricity consuming households to retrospect their honesty or integrity”

Law and Order

Both pedestrian and vehicular traffics pose a serious threat to the civic management of the town. According to Jamlian Khup SI i/c TCP, CCP, there are 12 numbers of traffic points. Each post has two shifts: (1) Morning Shift (7 am- 1 pm), and (2) Evening Shift (1 pm-6 pm). For each shift, two police personnel are manning the traffic points.

There is a Mobile Team that comprises of two sub-teams as (1) Vehicle Team of four to 5 police personnel, and (2) Barefoot Team of four to 5 personnel. Moreover, there is a group specially constituted to look after VIP Overtures. For the VIP Arrangement, no specific number of personnel is fixed for the purpose. It rather depends on the size of the programme.

There are indeed critical challenges regarding traffic management in the town. The roads are too narrow that they need expansion. Volume of commuters have crossed the carrying capacity of road esp. from Peace Ground to Lanva. To overcome this traffic congestion issue, the Superintendent of Police (SP), Churachandpur District has proposed a bypass road which should be constructed from Kaprang village. The bypass road should be laid up till Mualvaiphei and even can go beyond it to Lanva. This will help us do away with traffic issues in the town. This needs a policy intervention from our representatives.

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“We have conducted enough of helmet drives, but acceptance among people is low. Bamboo barricades are damaged by reckless driving and sometimes even that of wooden barricade”, warned the SP. The SP is so much anguished of VIP and public movements along the one and only Tiddim Road. He further made a proposal that the ADCC should be taking up an initiative for a proper designation of a space for the purpose of parking auto-rickshaws that will help do away with haphazard parking and stoppage of vehicles. It should limit number of auto-rickshaws by reducing licenses.

The SP also pointed out that 330 acres and 222 acres of land have been destroyed in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Moreover, the Churachandpur Police are all set to destroy the poppy plants should the harvest season come likely in the month of December this year (2022).

In the last three months till 06/07/2022, several cases have been registered, and seizure being made by the R/O CCP District under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Sixteen persons have been arrested in drugs related cases and 795.69 Gms of H/P No. 4, 923 Gms of Brown Sugar, 14.517 Kgs of Opium, 1,50000 WY tablets seized and destroyed 10 acres of poppy cultivation at Thangjing Hill Range alone during this time period.

Looking at the nuances and complexities of urbanisation and civic management in the town, co-ordinations at different levels are indispensable. Co-ordination among the four government departments on one hand and them with the CSOs are essential. Administrative machineries like the ADCs have to be given their due importance in terms of legislative, executive and judicial powers. “An ADC under 6th Schedule of Indian Constitution is a one-stop solution to bring about the required developments in the town”, wished Dr. Paolienthang Khongsai. Dr. Khongsai is not averse to having municipality in Lamka town pointing at the required number of populations the town has. However, the district cannot risk of adopting Panchayati Raj Institutions, because it is a tribal dominated hill district having constitutional protections under Article 371 (C) of Indian Constitution.

The various steps taken by CSOs like Vision Lamka and Lamka Core, among others have to be strengthened. Proper awareness programmes related to urban developments and civil sense have to be promulgated among the common mass. To make Churachandpur (Lamka) Town the best in the world is the long-term vision of VL. VL has stated clearly in its policy document that Lamka Town will become the first Millennium City in the world. This may take hundreds of years. VL is more focused on the process than its result. Thankfully, the ADCC is looking forward to implementing laws banning single-use plastics in the town.

Paojakhup Guite

Paojakhup Guite

The writer is pursuing an MA in Media Studies at the Central University of Hyderabad. Currently, he is undergoing a media internship with Imphal Review of Arts and Politics undertaken by Free Press School of Journalism under Pradip Phanjoubam. Views, research, historical narrative by the author are his.

He may be contacted at guitepaojakhup9@gmail.com

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