Bye-elections to four Assembly constituency seats were held on Friday to fill up the backlog caused by a number of defections and disqualifications in the State Legislative Assembly, while in another development M Rameshwar of the BJP was named the MLA from Kakching as a result of disqualification of Y Surchandra from the Kakching seat. The enforcement of new SOPs, in the meantime, has been entrusted to several newly formed committees by the government, even as the women vendors of Khwairamband Nupi Keithel have demanded the reopening of the market before the festive season.
Manipur Bye-Elections For 4 Seats Held
Polling for the bye-elections to the four Assembly Constituencies of Wangoi, Lilong, Wangjing-Tentha and Saitu were held on November 7 from 7 am to 5 pm amidst strict COVID-19 protocols and tight security arrangement.
Altogether 203 polling stations were opened in four Assembly Constituencies for a 1,35,212-strong electorate that included 66,807 males and 68,400 females casting votes for 11 candidates, of whom, four are INC, three BJP, three independents and one NPP.
Voters were seen queuing up to exercise their franchise wearing hand gloves and masks but it was hard to see voters maintaining physical distance outside the polling stations.
As a precautionary measure to prevent spread of COVID-19 during elections, the ASHA and Anganwadi workers were seen at every polling booth taking temperatures and distributing essential items such as face masks, hand sanitisers, and hand gloves to all the voters.
In Lilong AC which has 32,398 voters (15,877 males, 16,518 females), three candidates namely, Azizul Haque Khan of the INC, Md Abdul Nasir, Independent and Y Antas Khan, Independent are in the fray. However, Md Abdul Nasir, Independent is supported by the ruling BJP.
In Wangjing Tentha AC too, which has 31,213 voters (15,053 males, 16,160 females) three candidates Paonam Brojen of BJP, Moirangthem Hemanta Singh of INC and Sarangthem Manaobi, Independent, are in fray. Paonam Brojen who was elected on INC ticket in 2017 resigned from the Congress MLA seat and joined the BJP, while former BJP candidate Moirangthem Hemanta is contesting as INC candidate.
In Wangoi AC which has 28828 voters and 41 polling stations manned by a total number of 205 polling personnel including security, three candidates, namely, Oinam Lukhoi Singh of the BJP, Khuraijam Loken Singh of the NPP and Salam Joy Singh of the INC are in the fray. Oinam Lukhoi who was elected on an INC ticket in 2017 resigned from the Congress MLA seat and joined the BJP, while the former BJP candidate Salam Joy is contesting as an INC candidate.
In Saitu AC which has 40,257 eligible voters, 19,755 males and 20,498 females, it is a straight fight between arch rivals BJP and INC. Veteran politician Ngamthang Haokip as BJP candidate and new face Dr. Lamtinthang Haokip of INC are in the fray.
HC Declares M Rameshwar Of BJP As MLA
In another development, the Manipur High Court on November 5 declared the election of Kakching AC, MLA Yengkhom Surchandra Singh as null and void and entitled the petitioner Mayanglambam Rameshwar Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who stood second in the 2017 election securing 10,503 votes, as elected member of 37- Kakching AC.
The Judgment was passed by a single bench following a petition filed by Rameshwar. Surchandra was elected on a Congress ticket from the Kakching AC in the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election 2017 securing 11,133 votes and later joined the BJP.
It may be mentioned that Surchandra later came back to the Congress at the time of Rajya Sabha Election in June this year. However, the Speaker disqualified him along with other MLAs.
HC Dismisses Surchandra’s Plea
A single bench of the Manipur High Court on November 6 dismissed the petition filed by former MLA of Kakching Y Surchandra, seeking interim relief on the judgment of the court declaring his election result null and void.
Local Committees For New SOP
Principal Secretary (Health), V Vumlunmang has said that the task of enforcing the new SOP would be entrusted to Local COVID committees, Assembly segment level COVID committees and district level committees.
Informing that the State Government has already drawn up and enforced a new SOP to give a new impetus to the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, Vumlunmang told the media on November 6 that apart from enforcing the new SOP, extensive awareness campaigns would be organised on the COVID-19 pandemic and protective measures.
Launching a weekly media briefing programme which would be organised by Health Department at the Health Directorate, Lamphelpat today, V Vumlunmang told media persons that local COVID committees would take pro-active roles at locality level to ensure people wear face masks, maintain physical distance and wash hands frequently.
The Principal Secretary said there are 399 COVID beds in the state including 245 at RIMS and JNIMS, 80 at district hospitals, 50 at Shija Hospital and 24 at Raj Medicity.
In addition, there are 2264 beds at 35 different COVID Care Centres.
Out of 3137 COVID-19 positive people who were advised home isolation, 2345 have recovered. The department has started providing medicines to people under home isolation and pulse oxymeters have been purchased, he said.
Informing that treatment of COVID-19 has now been covered by both CMHT and PMJAY, Vumlunmang said that all frontline workers and volunteers are covered by a life insurance scheme of Rs. 50 lakh sponsored by the Government of India.
There is no shortage of testing kits, both RT-PCR and RAT, he said.
Health Director Dr. K Rajo said that so far 1000 pulse oxymeters have been purchased and 1500 more would arrive today followed by another 1500 in the next couple of days.
These pulse oxymeters would be made available to people under home isolation through ASHA workers and other volunteers, Dr Rajo said.
State Surveillance Officer Dr. N Somorjit informed that the Health Department in collaboration with RIMS has taken up necessary measures to carry out Sero-surveillance in two valley districts and two hill districts.
Apart from arranging 5600 RAT kits (at the rate of 1400 for each district), due communication is being made with the Ministry of Health through video conferencing, Dr Somorjit added.
Vendors Demand Keithel Reopening
Khwairamband Nupi Keithel vendors questioned why they should not be allowed to resume normal business when the government is allowing conduct of election campaigns where people failed to maintain COVID-19 SOP.
As hardships continue to mount for women vendors with the shutting down of Khwairamband Keithel for over seven months to contain COVID-19 pandemic in the state, many licensed vendors of the market have urged Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren to reopen the market for at least a few days for Ningol Chakkouba celebration.
Speaking to the media at Manipur Press Club on November 5, L Ibeyaima, one of the vendors, said that many women of the state solely depend on this market. But with the shutting down of the market for more than seven months since March 21 as a preventive measure to control COVID-19, their suffering for livelihood has increased, reports added.
Reports further say, the women vendors pointed out to the reopening of other markets such as Thangal Bazaar, Paona Bazaar, Lamlong Market, Pishumthong Market, condemning the act of allowing some other popular markets to open and not allowing Khwairamband Nupi Keithel.