Temporary Imphal market construction sets off protests, strike

Imphal, Jan 18 (IANS) A conflict between women vendors of Thangal market here, whose shops were destroyed in the January 4 earthquake, and the local BJP legislator Khumukcham Joykishan resulted in a dawn-to-dusk strike on Monday.

The strike has been called by a number of clubs, organisations and women vigilante groups under the aegis of Thangmeiband Kendra Development Organisation (THAKDO) to protest the storming of the BJP legislator’s house by some women vendors on Saturday.

As armed police and paramilitary personnel were deployed in trouble-prone areas there was no untoward incident. But all shops, banks, schools and other establishments were closed and there was no traffic in the Thangal market area.

The conflict arose when the government started construction of a temporary market for about 2,000 women vendors whose shops were destroyed in the January 4 earthquake.

Joykishan, in whose constituency the market falls, was upset since he said he was not even “informed” about the construction plan.

“No tender was floated nor work order issued. I question the authority of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi in this regard. A government simply cannot close down a busy public road to construct something,” he said.

The law-maker said he was not opposed to the setting up of a temporary market, but the government should be consulting all those who would be affected in selecting a suitable place.

He said Works Minister K. Ratan did seek his “suggestions and cooperation” but only after the construction work started.

BJP leader Prahlad Singh Patel, who is in charge of the party affairs in the northeastern region, sent a letter on Saturday to Chief Minister Okram Ibobi, requesting him to stop the construction of the temporary market.

The letter says the market would cause traffic jams, inconvenience to the people, and the insurgents might take undue advantage of the chaos to lob bombs into the crowded areas.

The chief minister has not yet responded to the letter.

Meanwhile, the women vendors of the two damaged marketing complexes, Nupi Keithel and Saktam Kunba Lup, have flayed Joykishan, accusing him of being indifferent to the plight of the women vendors.

They say it is wrong to claim that no space has been left for traffic.

One woman vendor said, “All these decades there has been no space for vehicular traffic since there are mostly three row parkings. It is questionable why he (the BJP MLA) remained silent the and is harping on a non-issue only now.”

Joykishan is supported by a number of social organisations and women activists of his constituency.

The police are on alert.

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