Introduction: Geographical Location
is one of the sub-divisional headquarters of Churachandpur
district in the Indian state of Manipur
and is a key administrative centre in the southwestern border of the state. It is a tiny border town between the international boundary of India and Myanmar. It is connected by road to the Burmese town of Tedim
. Singngat is about 32 km from the district headquarters, i.e., Churachandpur
.and around 115 km from Sinzawl village bordering Mizoram. Behiang
, a thriving trade center on the Indo-Myanmar border is 25 km away from Singngat. In short, Singngat stands in a privileged geographical position crossing important roadways: Tedim Road
, starting from Imphal, the state capital, then to Lamka
passes through Singngat and enters Behiang which extends further down till Tedim Township in Myanmar; and Guite Road
starts from Singngat and passes through Sinzawl village which finally makes its way to Aizawl in Mizoram.
The Brunts of Ethnic Conflict (1997-98)
Till the Zomi-Kuki ethnic conflict of 1997-98, Singngat had a fairly busy bazaar. Singngat had been a prosperous town with different ethnic people living together harmoniously. But that has become a thing of the past. Sadly, the once bustling town now turns into a seemingly small hamlet - quiet, dark, desolate, empty, neglected and abandoned. A large part of the town was burned down during the said conflict. From then on, Singngat started treading the path of degeneration. And as of to date, it could not recover its morale and market.
Thus it can be truly said that the Kuki-Zomi conflict was the root cause for the downfall of the town. As a part of military and civilian partnership, Singngat is currently under redevelopment as a Model Village by the Government of India.
Local Administration: A failed system
The Government machinery has completely collapsed and there is little, or no, sign that this place is part of the Indian state. The Sub-Divisional Officer's headquarters has been abandoned and its rundown rooms stripped of so much as a filing cabinet. The SDO and the office persons have been working actively in Lamka for quite sometime now. Not much remains of the police station either, which was set on fire by ethnic-Meitei insurgents in 2001. The fire department has no staff, but an almost-red truck rusting in a shed bears witness to the fact that it once existed. The boarded-up Singngat post office has a sign proclaiming that it works from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but no one who is not well past their teens has any idea what the red cylindrical box outside the building is for. There is a government-run school, but again, without teachers. The school building itself has since been occupied by the army. The once magnificent Community Hall stands a little more like a colossal wreck becoming a good place for garbage dumping.
Crumbling Health Care
Gone are the days when well-equipped doctors and nurses attended to patients under the sprawling expanse of the hospital building in downtown Singngat. The building now stands in a forgotten corner, slowly wasting away as time goes by. Doctors who are posted there rarely visit the place. The people would call it their lucky day when doctors make a fleeting visit, that too, once every two months or so. This being the case, critically ill persons have no option than rush to the district hospital in Lamka, which is more than a two-hour drive from Singngat. A worn-out veterinary hospital building exists, but no doctors come to work there. It becomes a safe haven for pigs, cows and dogs with no one to take good care of them.
Perennial Water Scarcity
But the real problem, hitherto has not yet been mentioned. Water scarcity and dilapidated Singngat-Lamka road condition had been grappling the people of Singngat since time begun. People have to undergo tremendous hardships in fetching water to as far away a tiny stream as over one to two kilometers, everyday, which is flowing in barely more than a trickle. A decade ago, water was pumped by electric motors and were supplied to the households through pipelines. Nothing of this sort now.
Transportation by Road
Roads are our lifelines and economic arteries. But the Lamka-Singngat road is in a horrible condition, despite a generous funding of over Rs.100 lakhs from 2003-2006. Today it is worse than a bullock cart road due to its deep potholes. People are being overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty when they take a bus ride down the unkempt, pot-holed and dusty Tedim Road. Through this day, the infamous ‘Zezaw tou’, the most terrible part of the Tedim Road stretch, continues to haunt travelers using the roadway. Just imagine how the bus fares between Lamka-Imphal (over 60 km) and Lamka-Singngat (barely 30 km) could be the same.
Corruption in Public Works
Till now, no one is interested in Singngat as a place. It is simply seen as a political battlefield for capturing loyal voters. The poor fight among themselves in the hope of pleasing corrupt politicians. Without any economic agenda, politicians simply fool around by fueling tribal conflicts along feudal clan lines, or along tribe lines. The paralyzing spirit of cynicism is quite annoying in the state, where corrupt politicians and militants out perform each other in pulling down the fabric of development. The colonial-style of power equation and feudal system of local government chain our people while the rest of India is flying. The poor people have been bogged down by deprivation and hopelessness over the years. And their deafening voices are unheard, their dying cries are disregarded.
The town of Singngat did not lag behind other places of Manipur in terms of education. Till 1997 there were six (6) schools, including one government high school, namely:
1. Hill Model Aided High School,
2. Singngat Standard High School,
3. St. Joseph’s School,
4. Salvation Army School,
5. Singngat Government High School,
6. Mt. Carmel School,
Students from the surrounding villages came together here in Singngat. Hill Model High School, which was established way back in 1971, continued to be the premier educational institution. The school had even produced a top 5th position holder all over Manipur in the class X board examination in 1995. However, the educational system started falling apart during the 1997 ethnic clash and as of the present day, the system follows the slow process of regaining its past vigor. With no teachers as well as students the government school building is being occupied by the Indian army. This may seem a fringe benefit for the teachers posted there. And it’s hard to tell what future may have in store for those poor students who could not afford to study in private-run institutions. And it is painful to see so many poor children, grim and dirty, dressed in rags, loitering around the streets while their counterparts pass by, wearing bright school uniforms. They stared them longingly, a gleam of envy in their eyes.
Singngat is part of Outer Manipur (Lok Sabha constituency)
- Singngat puuksiatni phawkkiikna (The fall and rise of Singngat) http://vaphualization.blogspot.com/2007/07/july-7-1997-singngat-puuksiatni.html
- Aerial view of Singngat http://wikimapia.org/4667141/Singngat