Imphal: “A world-class player, a third-class road”. This is what Naorem Rabi told us when asked about the condition of roads in Nongpok Kakching, the birthplace of Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, and its surrounding villages. Yes, Nongpok Kakching, only some 24 km from Imphal, located in the stunning northeastern of Imphal East district, is surrounded by sleepy hills and lavender fields. Yet, like the rest of almost all village roads in the state, the condition of Nongpok Kakching road is of the worst in Manipur.
A few hundred meters from Nongren to the south, one can see hundreds of potholes that dot the muddy road leading to Nongpok Kakching. Forget about streetlights, good roads, and a proper sewage system, the villagers have been at their wits’ end for the last several years. Even pedestrians cannot walk on these uneven roads. After sunset, the roads are engulfed in darkness. In the rainy season, the area gets inundated for several days owing to the lack of sewage system, due to which mosquitoes and insects breed there and the residents are exposed to serious health risks.
Rabi, an advisor to the local club, said that the residents have requested the authorities including the local representative (currently Lamlai AC has no representative) to ensure better road and civic amenities in the village, but to no avail.
But for Saikhom Tombi Devi, mother of Mirabai Chanu, it is an embarrassment not just for the village but for the state as a whole. Since the day, the news flashed all across the world that her youngest daughter, last among six siblings, won a silver medal in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, thousands of people from different walks of life, including local leaders, media persons, well-wishers thronged her house and congratulated her. One of the things that struck her mind was how could they come through such a deplorable road. Sometimes she feels sorry for herself, for the village, for the government, and for the state, which has now entered into the world map of weightlifting. The only appeal she wants to make to the government is to construct at least one good road.
Naorem Chandrakumar Singh, a senior citizen in the village, said that Nongpok Kakching is one of the oldest villages in Manipur. The first recorded human settlement in the village started in 1624, during the reign of King Charairongba. There were over two hundred surnames and clans but villagers started shifting to other places due to a mass Cholera outbreak in the 1870s. Only five surnames and clans remained in the village during those periods. But the village has around 600 people, he added.
A village which is historically linked and mentioned in the Royal Chronicle has been abandoned for so long, he lamented.
When contacted, Kh Biren Singh, former MLA, Lamlai AC, informed that maintenance of the roads at Nongpok Kakching has already been included in the work programme. But due to the present rainy season, blacktopping and other maintenance works will be difficult and will take a little longer. However, he explained, there were conflicts between PWD and IFCD over jurisdiction of work because of the Thoubal Multipurpose Project. This tussle between the two major departments slowed down the project, he added.