Strike called in quake-hit Imphal against women vendors’ behaviour

Imphal, Jan 17 (IANS) Civil society groups in the Manipur capital have called for a 12-hour strike on Monday protesting the “objectionable language” used by women vendors against a BJP legislator and the damage they caused to his house after he stopped reconstruction on Saturday of the market complexes destroyed in the earthquake.

Meanwhile, construction work of the temporary market, that was suspended on Saturday, resumed on Sunday as a minister said the government decided to go ahead with the construction under intense pressure from women vendors whose markets were damaged in the January 4 quake.

Works Minister Kh. Ratankumar Singh said: “The government and not the chief minister alone decided to go ahead with the construction of the temporary market under intense pressure from the women vendors whose two market complexes were damaged in the January 4 earthquake.

“There is a plan to construct another market nearby. This is an emergency work since the complexes were damaged by the earthquake and the vendors have been rendered out of work.”

He said that when an accident takes place, people “cannot wait for formalities”.

The construction of a temporary women’s market was suspended on Saturday at the behest of BJP legislator Khumukcham Joykishan who said no tender was floated for the construction and no work order was issued.

Following the halting of the construction work in the legislator’s constituency, hundreds of angry women vendors stormed his house to demand an alternative market for them since they have been without a place to carry on business.

The BJP’s state unit has been demanding demolition of the two market complexes saying they pose a threat to the women vendors.

“We are seeking suggestion and cooperation from the MLA and all others,” Works Minister Kh. Ratankumar Singh said on Sunday.

A 12-hour general strike has been called from 5 a.m. on Monday in Thangmeiband constituency in which the market falls, in protest against the objectionable language some women vendors used against the BJP legislator and their damaging decorative pieces in his house.

The civil society organisations have demanded an apology from the women vendors for their objectionable language and damage caused to the BJP leader’s house.

Until this is done, the women vendors shall not be allowed to meet the legislator, the groups said.

The BJP legislator dismissed the statement by the works minister, saying suggestions should have been sought before beginning construction work.

“What is the point of seeking suggestion and cooperation after the work is half done,” he asked.

He said that though he was the local legislator, he was not even informed about the work, and maintained that no tender was floated nor any work order issued.

Eight people were killed and over 100 others wounded in the January 4 quake that also razed to the ground hundreds of houses.

The displaced women vendors are now selling their items by the roadside, much to the resentment of the street vendors.

Sensing violent confrontation between the two groups, the government hurried with the temporary construction of the damaged markets.

The Women’s Market is one of the largest markets run by women in the country. The main items found here include handloom and handicraft products like earthen pots, knives, shawls, puppets and all kinds of dried fish and vegetables.

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