Ground Report: With No Motorable Roads, Villagers in Manipur’s Tamenglong Forced to Carry Patients on Makeshift Bamboo Stretchers
"Our area seems like a no man’s land."
“I remember the fateful day — July 21, 2014 — when I delivered my baby on the way to the hospital. I could have died that very day. With no vehicular movement and no medical facility available, I had to go to Tamenglong on foot with my husband. On the way, my labour pains began; I could remember forcing myself to walk faster whenever the pain decreased and stopped whenever the pain increased,” recalls thirty-four-year-old Lungjeuyi Newme, a resident of Tousem village in Manipur’s Tamenglong district.
“Things were getting out of control — I was left with no other option than to lie down and prepare myself for delivery. Tamenglong was still five to six hours from our location,” she said.
“My husband took the help of a passerby from a nearby village to take me to Tamenglong district hospital; I was semi-conscious after the delivery.”
She says road connectivity remains the same even today. “So many lives have been lost because of this poor connectivity. So many families have had to bid farewell to their loved ones; someone lost their wife, someone their mother, and some lost their children,” she says, asking, “For how long do we have to bear these heavy losses?”
Lungjeuyi’s village is one of the 65 villages in the Tousem subdivision of the hilly district— around 260 kilometres from Imphal and 70 kilometres for Tamenglong district headquarter — where lack of proper health facilities and motorable roads has cost many people their lives.
“Villagers of Tousem subdivision have faced the government’s negligence,” said thirty-five-year-old Paul Newme, a resident of Aben village. The government, according to him, has two faces — one for the valley districts, and another for the Hill districts. .
PHCs non-functional; people die of minor, treatable diseases
Tousem subdivision has two Public Health Centres (PHCs) and six Public Health Sub-centres (PHSCs) and almost all of them are non-functional.
“…many precious lives, especially women and children, have been lost from treatable disease like diarrhoea, measles etc. The people of Tousem Sub-division are denied of their basic rights of health by the state government,” said thirty-one-year-old Ringbam Kamei, a resident of Makuai village.
65-year-old Kiakoulak Pame, the Secretary of Phoklong village, rued “Whenever a person in the village falls sick, we have to depend on local physicians or traditional medical practitioners. However, that doesn’t solve the problem all the time, we have lost many of our loved ones. ”
Paul said that due to the poor road connectivity doctors could not come to the Primary Health Centre (PHC), “They come once in 5-6 months and even if they come, they stay for only 2-3 days.”
Villages here still use bamboo stretchers to carry patients, walking for upwards of five hours to reach the nearest hospital.
“I could have lost my wife while taking her to Tamenglong district hospital,” said Simeon Panmei, a thirty-seven-year-old farmer who lives in Chramram village.
“It took us 7-8 hours to reach Tamenglong. Since the roads were narrow and rugged, we couldn’t walk swiftly. My wife was wriggling in severe pain on the bamboo stretcher. I, along with 50-60 villagers, took her to hospital in December 2018…We had to pause for several times. I started to get worried that I might have to return to the village with the lifeless body of my wife. Had there been proper road connectivity, we could have reached the hospital within 3 hours,” he said.
“Due to lack of proper road connectivity, we have to carry the patients (on a bamboo stretcher) to the nearest hospital on foot. We face so many hardships, but nobody seems to care,” lamented Kiakoulak Pame.
“We have to walk for more than six or seven hours to reach Tamenglong headquarter for treatment. There have been many incidents when the patients succumbed to their illness on the way,” he said, adding that in 2018, the village chairman — Milang Pame — died on the way to the hospital.
“This is nothing new. This happens every year. People have to suffer so much trouble taking their loved ones for treatment; many times, they lost their loved ones on the way, due to the long journey. Sometimes, there is vehicular movement, but it is not reliable as landslides and floods often block the roads,” Paul Newme added.
He recalled how recently, on June 4, 2019, fifty-two-year-old Deihuile Kuame had to be carried for 45 kilometres to reach a hospital. Paul said that the area is in “desperate” need of an ambulance for emergencies.
‘No man’s land’
“Tousem subdivision is deprived of the right to live with dignity because of the lack of an all-weather road. The villages in this area are denied socio-economic development. Our area seems like a no man’s land,” rued Kiakoulak Pame.
“We, the villagers, have been facing untold miseries due to the pathetic road conditions for decades. Being a remote area, we are left at the mercy of our own fate. No government cares for the people. Absence of an all-weather road is the biggest hindrance to basic necessities of life — healthcare services, food and denial of socio-economic development,” he further said.
NewsCentral24x7 tried contacting the area MP, Dr. Lorho Pfoze of the NPF, however, he could not be reached. The story shall be updated when a comment is received.
Awangbou Newmai, the state unit chief of the Naga People’s Front (NPF), is the MLA from the area, elected in 2017. The NPF is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the northeastern state. When NewsCentral24x7 reached out to him about the poor condition of roads and healthcare services in Tousem, he said, “I am fully aware of the problem face by my Kendra people. I have been running from post to pillar to address the grievance of the people. I will continue to work to uplift the life of the people.”