Dr Manmohan assures 'dignified life', sets projects' date
Source: The Sangai Express / PTI

Imphal, December 02: The prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh wrapped up his over an hour long visit to the State with a pledge to the people that the Government will translate into action assurance for a life of dignity with self respect.

Apart from symbolically laying foundation stones for upcoming projects at Kangla Fort today, where he addressed an impressive gathering of people who arrived from various places despite general strike called by a banned armed group to boycott the visit and total bandh by anti-dam bodies demanding revocation of MoU on the Tipaimukh project, the Prime Minister's speech was punctuated with issues concerning health, culture, economic development and sports.

Taking pride in the multi-ethnic composition of the Manipuri society, he also conveyed of the Government's commitment in ensuring 'nothing is done which will harm sentiments of the people'.

Top: CM O Ibobi presents pena to Dr Manmohan Singh; (R) PM addressing at Kangla Fort; and (bottom) crowd at the entrance

Foundation stones for the Tipaimukh Multi-purpose Dam and Loktak Downstream Project would be laid by the Union Minister of Power Sushil Kumar Shinde and Minister of Heavy Industries Santosh Mohan Dev when the duo next visit again before Christmas this year, announced the PM.

Both the Ministers and Union Minister of State for Home Prithviraj Chauhan accompanied the Prime Minister.

Amid high expectation that the Prime Minister might make a path-breaking comment on the controversially imposed Armed Forces' Special Powers Act 1958 in Manipur, Dr Manmohan pointed out that the Centre 'need to consider some amendments to the Act by modifying existing provisions or inserting new provisions, whereby it could be made more humane giving due regard to the protection of basic human and civil rights'.

Referring to ongoing processes to 'redress legitimate grievances' on the AFSPA and recalling his own assurance made some two years back, the PM noted that people of manipur are entitled to the same privileges and protection of law as the citizens in rest of the country.

He said if peace was given a chance there would be no need to use armed forces for the task they have been entrusted with.

"The Armed Forces are here to enforce rule of law to punish law-breakers and ensure safety of Manipuris.

Occasionally, acts of a few may have become the object of public resentment.

However, by and large, the Armed Forces are here to do their duty," he said.

He maintained that the Home Ministry is working on the matter 'just as I had promised' and exuded confidence that many grievances would be addressed.

Emphasising on lasting peace and harmony for exit of such special Acts, the PM called upon the people to work for a future where every Manipuri can dream and aspire like all other Indians and feel assured on security and safety.

While skipping direct reference on demands that the Act be repealed, he also made it clear that continued deployment of forces would be required till normalcy returns to the state.

It may be mentioned that in addition to numerous movements decrying continued imposition of the Act Irom Sharmila has been on a fast for the past six years demanding complete repealing of the Act.

At the height of protest demanding scrapping of the law, the govt had set up a committee headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy that had recommended scrapping of AFSPA and its main provisions incorporated into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The Prime Minister had on earlier occasions told Manipuri delegations that the Centre was prepared to go into representations for amendment of the law when two years ago the demand for its repeal snowballed into a major issue in the wake of custodial killing and alleged sexual molestation of Th Manorama Devi involving personnel of the by Assam Rifles.

assuring Manipur, which goes to Assembly polls early next year, of all-round development, he said work on Tipaimukh and Loktak downstream projects would begin soon and the Manipur Institute of Technology (MIT) would be converted into a National Institute of Technology.

Acknowledging abundant potential for development of human resource in the State, he urged the State youths to capitalise on available educational facilities to equip themselves for contributing towards growth of the country.

Concerned with high incidence of HIV/AIDS, Dr Manmohan said Govt will fight against illegal drugs and narcotics while exhorting the youth to resist temptation from use of drugs.

Regarding health care sector, he said Rs 210 crores had been sanctioned to provide advanced facilities at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences on par with AIIMS in order to make RIMS cater to needs of all neighbouring States. The PM also announced that RIMS would now be run the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to address chronic problem of fund shortage.

Stressing on improving health facilities in district headquarters, he informed of the Centre having sanctioned construction of five 50-bedded hospitals in Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Chandel, Senapati and Jiribam sub-division.

Dr Manmohan, who earlier laid the foundation stone of the National Sports Academy to be established at Khuman Lampak Sports Complex, informed of Govt's commitment to provide requisite infrastructure to ensure that the youth of the State continue to remain in the forefront of sports at the national and international levels.

noting rich tourism potential of the State with reference to the pristine Loktak Lake, the rare Shiroy Lily and abundant forests and wildlife, he cited laying the foundation stone for the Cultural cum City Convention today would facilitate proper tapping of this potential as the centre would now be able to host conferences of varying level.

Other areas highlighted in the PM's address include inclusion of Imphal in the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission, ongoing construction of rail-line from Jiribam upto Tupul to establish rail connectivity to Imphal valley, four-laning of remaining NH-39 section from Maram till Imphal, resumption of vehicular movement along the NH-53, assurance to improve old Cachar Road and improved flight facility with the entry of private airliners.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and MPCC (I) president Gaikhangam also addressed the public gathering who were reportedly transported under security cover from various locations of the State.

While informing that sincere but vigorous approach by the SPF Govt prompted the Prime Minister to skip important schedules to visit Manipur, the Chief Minister nevertheless regretted that boycott of high profile visits had become a regular affair in the State.

Insurgency problem besieging manipur are no less insignificant than those afflicting other parts of the North East region but there is hardly any instances of boycotts/agitation calls in these neighbouring States, fumed O Ibobi Singh.

owing to the twin agitation calls shops and educational institutions rema-in closed as streets including the Tiddim Line, where the PM's entourage travelled, wore a deserted look.

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