In what was deemed as a historic visit, a 10 member delegation of the European Union visited Manipur and other Northeast States in February 2015. The visit was co-ordinated by Anne Marchal, First Counsellor, Head of Political Affairs, European Union, India. Top diplomats from Austria, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Germany and Luxemburg were part of the delegation. The visit highlights the importance of the states in the North Eastern region in the India story.
The visit of the dignitaries was facilitated by SAATHII at 2 pm on 23 February 2015. A folder containing the following documents were handed over to the 10 delegates before the start of the meeting:
• A three pager on SAATHII’s work in North East India
• A two page concept note on EU funded Svavritti Project
• Two pager IEC on central and state schemes printed under Svavritti project
Meeting with community members of PLHIV and MARPs at Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+ ) office, Yaiskul: The EU team stopped for a moment to read the board of the Svavritti Project at MNP+ office, where the community interaction meeting was organised. At the outset, Ms. Randhoni welcomed all the delegates from EU and the community members from MNP+ presented local handloom scarf to all the dignitaries as a token of respect. A brief introduction on SAATHII and Project Svavritti, which is being implemented with MNP+ in Manipur, was done by SAATHII representative. Mr. Deepak, President of MNP+, spoke on how MNP+ evolved from amongst a small group of IDUs to the present stage. The rampant drug use in Manipur due to the porous international border was also highlighted. The current Community Resource Persons (CRP) and past CRPs from EU and ASLP projects shared their experiences. The issue of Hep C was deliberated by the community. Ms. Anne presented a memento to Mr. Deepak.
Meeting with Shri. Pradeep Kumar Jha, IAS, Project Director, Manipur SACS: Ms. Anne highlighted the objectives of EU delgates’ visit to the state. Shri. Jha, PD, Manipur SACS spoke about scenario of HIV prevalence in the state and how it was first detected among the IDUs in 1990 among whom prevalence was around 76.9% at that time and now being reduced to approximately 11%. Manipur is the first state to have an HIV / AIDS policy. Number of interventions for harm reduction is still being carried but though many donor partners have stopped work in the state. PD also informed that MSACS is getting some financial support from the State government this year. EU team asked about the states initiative in tackling Hep C infection amongst PLHIV and IDUs. PD spoke about certain schemes like AAY, MNREGS and IAY where PLHIV were given preferences.
Meeting with Shri. A. Guneshwar Sharma, former Member Secretary, Manipur State Legal Services Authority (MASLSA) and Session Judge, Manipur East. Shri. Sharma spoke about MASLSA and free legal aid, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Child Trafficking, Domestic Violence Act, Juvenile Justice Act and the type of cases that come to court that are easily addressed under MASLSA. He also spoke about women living with HIV and cases that had come through NGOs like SAATHII where more than 10 women were provided property rights through MASLSA. The EU further asked about AFSPA and where it stands now as per the judiciary.
Meeting at the Manipur Congress Bhawa: At Manipur congress Bhavan, the delegates interacted with a Congress MLA from Ukhrul, Shri. Victor Keishing ( who was the son of former CM. Shri. Rishang Keishing ) among other Congress workers and MLAs. He spoke about Congress being in power in the state since 2002 till date and also the previous stints. They deliberated on improved amenities, such as, electricity, road and communication and employment to some extent during the past 10 to 12 years.. The EU team asked about their rival party in the state and how will Congress make a difference if they still come to power in the next election too. Also what’s their plan to involve women in the next phase? There were questions to the Congress lawmakers on AFSPA and how long will the Act be there in the state. The Congress spokesman lamented that AFSPA may be there for some more time though it has been removed from greater Imphal area. The MLA also appealed to the EU to focus on issues of people living with HIV, cultivation of medicinal and indigenous plants, and Khum cultivation ( Slash and burn). At this Ms. Anne said that the Ambassador of the EU will soon visit the state and they will also put in writing all that has been gathered from this visit. The meeting ended with a group photograph in front of the Bhawan.
Meeting with the leaders of the BJP at the BJP office at Nityaipat Chuthek, Imphal: Retired IAS Officer, A.R. Khan, Prof. Gangumei Kamei former MLA, M.Bhorot Vice – President and Shri. Th. Chaoba, President of the Manipur BJP Unit were present in the meeting. Their highlight of the meeting was on issues of unemployment, top to bottom approach of program implementation/ governance, bad communication, lack of adequate infrastructure, etc. The BJP urged the EU to give attention to the remote areas of Manipur. Also requested EU team to look into matters related with communication, agriculture if they really want to help the people of Manipur. The President said that the present Modi government. at the centre is strictly monitoring work in all the NE states by sending ministers of various ministries every fortnight. The meeting ended with a group photograph at the BJP office.