From the evening of April 28 till May 3, attention of the people Manipur was drawn to Mapithel Dam, where three people went missing after the boat in which they were in capsized after Cyclone Fani hit the State. The Government did respond swiftly and personnel from the NDRF, SDRF, the State Fire Brigade and police were pressed into service to locate the three persons, with the two men being brothers. To aid the search party, divers from the Indian Navy were called in and the efforts to trace the missing people is noted. The active help and participation of the villagers of Ramrei village, which neighbours Chadong village, which was swept under water when Mapithel Dam came up, should also be acknowledged. The synergy in which personnel from the different departments and the villagers of Ramrei worked together was noteworthy and if there is anything positive that can be drawn from the tragedy at Mapithel Dam then it is this. The three bodies have been recovered and hopefully the co-operation and aid extended by the villagers of Ramrei in the search is not forgotten to be only included as a footnote to the tragedy at Mapithel Dam. The State Government too seems to have woken up if the notice to ban all unauthorised boats/vessels at reservoirs, rivers, lakes and inland water bodies is any indication. Other than the blanket ban on unauthorised boats and vessels, it would also be in the fitness of things for the Government to ensure that all “authorised boats and vessels” have basic gears on board, such as life jackets for those taking the boat ride.
There are still questions which the State Government should look into and take up steps to ensure that such shortfalls are not repeated in the future. The question why no intensive drive was carried out to forewarn the people on the impending cyclonic storm is a poser which should not be just wished away. Couldn’t the department concerned have done something meaningful to keep the people informed and come out with a list of dos and don’ts for the people to follow. True natural calamities are always tough to predict but with the rapid stride made in the field of weather forecast, it would not have been impossible to forewarn the people of the coming cyclonic storm. Just a conjecture, but if there had been an intense awareness drive then perhaps the boat ride on April 28 could have just been avoided. This is just a question but a poser that may be raised. On the other hand, it would also do the State Government a lot of good to take the joint statement issued by the Editors’ Guild, Manipur and the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union, over the supposedly biased stand adopted by the Deputy Commissioner of Kamjong in banning certain sections of the media from covering the search of the remaining two persons but turning a blind eye to one particular team from a media house while covering the said search operation. This was in bad taste and added more to the sense of extreme loss and sadness after the bodies of the wreck victims were recovered.