Vegetables of love from Liyai Khullen to Chief Minister

ZK Pahrü Pou
I was very happy to see our honourable CM Biren Singh receiving green vegetables from my villagers (Liyai Khullen) on 7th May 2020. In his Facebook page, CM beautifully wrote: “The bond of brotherhood between the people of the Hills and the Valley has never been so visible than during these trying times.”  He continues, “ Heartfelt gratitude to the villagers and leaders of Liyai Khullen Village, Senapati District for bringing me a large quantity of assorted vegetables, some with medicinal values, collected from the Barak range, for distribution to the people of the Valley areas. May God bless you all.”
 The CM is indeed an intelligent man who recognises the gifted vegetables not simply as a sort of food stuff but as a sign of help extended to brothers in trying times. He also acknowledged the rich variety of vegetables naturally grown in hill areas especially in Liyai village when he said ‘a large quantity of assorted vegetables’, as the gifted assorted vegetables consist of 31 variety of vegetables.  Since vegetables are naturally grown and collected, there will be lots of medicinal and health value in them. As long as one lives on naturally grown food stuff, there is every possibility of building up strong body immune system to fight against any type of disease including COVID-19. The CM also knows very well the importance of Barak River even as the State celebrates Barak Festival every year. Lastly, he wished that God be merciful to all the givers (villagers) as he said: “May God bless you all.” I am writing this piece to request our Honourable CM Biren Singh to work together with God in bringing this blessing to the villagers of Liyai Khullen in particular and to all the hill dwellers in general.
Dear CM, if you and valley dwellers want to eat again the health-guard and naturally grown green vegetables available in the hills of Manipur, you must help us to protect and preserve our forest.  The advent of COVID-19 has made us to seriously think about local food security.  Forests play a crucial role in maintaining food security of the state. It is heartening to learn that in Manipur, the forest cover of the state is 16,994 sq. km out of the state’s total area of 22,327 sq. Km. Hence, 67% of the geographical area of Manipur is hill tract covered forests. Over 3,000 square kilometres is of bamboo forests, making it one of India’s largest contributors to bamboo industry. These forests are home of a very wide range of flora and fauna. Manipur being a repository of a wide range of flora and fauna has rich traditional knowledge associated with them.  Maintenance of forest cover for the sake of top fertile soil and water resources is crucial aspect of food security. 
Since ages, these diverse and rich forests had served as the nourishment of the people of Manipur. The hill dwellers depend on forests for firewood, fodder, food, medicinal plants, raw material for house construction, agricultural tools, etc. They depend on forests as a source of income by generating essential finance to meet the required expenditure for medical treatment, children education, and other daily basic requirements. The tradition of most of them, particularly the tribes, was based on the belief that this sustenance had come down from their ancestors so it had to be used judiciously and preserved for posterity. That created a symbiotic relationship between them and nature.
In spite of lacking in many areas, it is the wealth of forest that greatly sustains the food security of hill people in Manipur. Their dependence on forest is evident from their livelihood needs. Leaves, tree barks, fruits, flowers, herbs, seeds, roots, medicinal herbs, mushroom, and fruits are integral part of their daily diet. Forest or wild animals are a vital source of nutrition and income for many rural dwellers.
 In fact, the estimation varies from 50 per cent to 80 per cent of tribes’ food requirement came from forest. Besides food, they are also dependent on forest for materials required for setting up their hut/house as well as for preparing tools, implements required for their routing economic and household activities. Hunting and fishing tools, agricultural implements like plough and yoke, and different types of baskets are all made from forest products. Almost all the diseases are cured by using medicinal leaves, roots, tree bark and plants grown in the jungle. Thus forest was and is the main source of life support system for the hill people.
Forests in the hills of Manipur are in danger today. Large part of it especially in border areas is infested by Indian armed forces and local insurgent groups making inaccessible for villagers to venture into it to collect food.  Deforestation on a large scale is taking place in the hill areas of Manipur including my village area which is a cause of great worry. One factor of cutting down of trees is due to poverty where many poor parents has to get money for their children’s education. For many others, forest is nothing but just a source of getting money. Roads are being cut deep into the dense forest for timber logging business destroying the habitats of different species of birds, animals including rodents. Rivers are drying up not only causing shortage of water for household consumption but also for agricultural purposes. Destroying forest stops oxygen production and top fertile soil eroded. Green vegetables are losing their healthy and hence taste diminishes. People became sickly. With the destruction of forest not only food security of the hill people is at risk but also the life and habitats of other living species too are at stake. 
Therefore, dear CM, if you want to continue eating green vegetable from the hills of Manipur, kindly help us to regenerate, protect and preserve forest. Now is the right time for tree plantation. If the state government can encourage the villagers to plant trees by extending financial assistance, your dream of “May God bless you all” will become reality. Then we will plant thousands of trees and keep our forest lush green with variety of ecologically viable trees and plants. We will keep the blessed Barak River flows throughout the year and feed lakhs of people downstream.  Forest is almost everything for us.
Help us regenerate our forest and hence our food security. Last but not the least important, dear CM Biren Singh, after COVID-19 pandemic is over, please come over to Liyai Khullen for trekking along with my Constituency’s MLA Losii Dikho. We will trek through the source of Barak River to the highest mountain - Heudu (in Poumai area), moving down to Khyouchi (Moon Hill) and finally to the cozy valley Biisho. Delicious and tongue-swallowing traditional food and heart-warming hospitality assured!! Let brotherly and sisterly love revive among us as we struggle together to save the world from COVID-19 pandemic.  Vei-a bu-o!!!
The author is from Liyai Khullen, Senapati