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Cabinet Reshuffle Stirs Hornets’ Nest in Manipur

Political drama and its resultant uncertainties was back centre stage again after the Chief Minister N Biren announced a reshuffle of his Council of Ministers which now includes two Congress MLAs who have just recently resigned from their parent party and joined the BJP. Protests are on from those dropped and nothing seems to guarantee that the government may not face further disruptions from inside the coalition.

Meanwhile, among others the government has announced austerity measures to contain expenditures during the Covid-19 pandemic, and also corruption dealings are in the spotlight with the arrest of a former high ranking Customs official.

5 New Faces in Reshuffled Biren Ministry

The three-and-half-years old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led coalition government under Chief Minister N Biren finally reshuffled its council of ministers September 24 evening after the BJP MLAs had been demanding for a reshuffle for the past one-and-half years.

To induct the new faces the CM dropped six ministers. Reports say, despite National Vice President Baijayant Panda’s indications BJP ministers, namely, Agriculture Minister V Hangkhanlian, Education Minister Thokchom Radheshyam and the only woman minister, Social Welfare Minister Nemcha Kipgen refused to resign and the CM had to submit their names to the Governor to be dropped from his council of ministers.

The other three ministers dropped are from coalition partners National People’s Party (NPP) and Lok Janashakti Party (LJP). Health Minister L Jayantakumar; Tribal Affairs Minister N. Kayisii of NPP and CAF&PD Minister Karam Shyam of LJP were dropped to vacate berths for the new faces.

The new faces are Thanlon MLA Vungzagin Valte, Yasikhul MLA Thokchom Satyabrata and Lamsang MLA Sorokhaibam Rajen. The other two are former Congress MLAs who had resigned and defected to the BJP. They are Oinam Lukhoi of Wangoi Assembly Constituency  and Okram Henry of Wangkhei Assembly Constituency who is the nephew of former Chief Minister of Manipur and opposition Congress leader Okram Ibobi.

The distribution of portfolios remains unclear however.

Nemcha Supporters Protest

Reports say hundreds of women in Kangpokpi protested on September 25 condemning the N Biren government over the removal of Nemcha Kipgen, BJP MLA from Kangpokpi Assembly Constituency from the Council of ministers.

The women supporters gathered and burned the effigy of the CM, terming the removal of Kipgen, the lone woman member, from the state cabinet as “annihilating women’s empowerment and opportunity” in Manipur during a sit-in protest.

NPP Ministers’ Decision

Meanwhile, the four NPP ministers in the present government also held a meeting on September 24, before the reshuffle was announced, and decided that if any of the NPP ministers were removed from the council of ministers all of the four would resign en-masse against such a move, reports said.

COVID-19 Impact on State Economy

The Manipur government is to cut down on non-essential expenditure in order to ensure that scarce resources are made available for meeting unavoidable and committed expenditures of the state during Covid pandemic, according to an office memorandum issued by the government.

The government has cut down on as many as 14 categories of non-essential expenditure including excess authorisation over budget provision, commitments on expenditure, ban on recruitment, and ban on creation of new entities among others.

“No further excess authorisation over the budget provision shall be considered, except for central share of CSS and CPS and other central grants for which funds have been received, and for salary and pension related payments,” it said.

The office memorandum also stated that orders issued by the department of personnel regarding ban on recruitment, on direct, part-time, contract, ad-hoc, substitute and casual basis, shall continue and there shall be no further creation of posts and filling up of vacant posts, except by promotion.

The move comes five days after the state halted all ongoing recruitment process citing the poor economy. The Chief Secretary of Government of Manipur has notified on September 20 that all ongoing recruitment processes including daily wages contract employment, muster roll direct recruitment being undertaken by all the departments (including societies, agencies, undertakings, boards, corporations etc.) will be put on hold with immediate effect until further orders in view of the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on the state’s economy and the precarious financial position of the state.

Anti-Poppy Campaign

An awareness campaign against poppy cultivation and drug use in Manipur which started on September 15 concluded September 24 with a meeting at 1st MR Banquet Hall.

Reports said the meeting was chaired by DGP LM Khaute and attended by other senior police officers. Village representatives from Senapati, Kamjong, Chandel, Tengnoupal, Churachandpur, Ukhrul and Bishnupur district also attended the meeting.

Ex-Customs Official Held

A chargesheet has been filed against the former Assistant Commissioner of Customs (Preventive) RK Darendrajit by the CBI in a case of disproportionate assets not in tune with his earnings. Darendrajit was arrested on September 22 after an appearance at the CBI office in Imphal and later produced in court.

Movable and immovable assets worth over Rs. 2.13 crores were found in his possession in a December 2018 raid at his house, reports said.

Jiribam-Imphal Railway Line

Only a single tunnel is left to be mined out of a total of 46 tunnels on the Jiribam-Imphal railway line which is under construction at a projected cost of Rs. 12,264 crores, reports have said.

The railway line will be 110. 625 kilometers long and its construction is included in the Union budget of 2003-04.

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