Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mautaam ghost haunts in the form of millions of flies

By Singlianmang Guite

Lamka, June 30: A fly or a beetle, one of the many insects that haunted the people during the previous Mautaam has re-appeared in millions at the hill tops, deep in the jungle of the district keeping the people on tenterhooks.

An insect identified by the district agriculture officials as Cinamon fly/beetle has been witnessed deep in the jungles of Tipaimukh and Vangai ranges since last year by villagers, but its number has increased threefold since, and they have now spread to the hill tops of Thanlon sub-division.

On top of Suangpehmun hill ranges, about 140 kms from here, the flies in millions have practically covered the leaves of all plants within half a kilometer from its peak.

It was first detected in the early part of last month and the numbers have not eased ever since.

"We have started collecting the insect for extracting its fats since the past two weeks, but it has made no difference.

It seems to be increasing by the day," a local guide Pahau Simte, who took this correspondent on a two-and-a-half track over to the hill top said.

At the hill top, the branches are seen drooping unable to stand the weight of the insects while some have snapped under its weight.

The stinky insect has swarmed all forms of life out there, under the cover of clouds.

Merely shaking a bunch from the the branches brings down enough insects to fill half of a one quintal bag - a load enough for a man to carry, added the local guide.

Villagers of Sungapchmun dry the insects in a pan and after grinding them they make it undergo the same process of drying before they squeeze the extract off.

Incidentally the fats, which resemble mustard oil is used for cooking as well.

District agriculture officials who have identified the insect have claimed that it has no harmful effects on crops, as its harmful affects on crops were not known, but some locals have claimed otherwise.

If the insect secretes on crops, its produce were effected severely, said an elder in Suangpelimun.

It is also interesting to note that a Google Image Search on the internet with the name given by the officials has failed to produce any insect which resembles the flies at the district.

The officials have however claimed that it could be a sign of famine, and forwarded some pictures of the insects to Imphal for further investigation.

Abnormal growth of insects and wild animals, sudden and mysterious deaths of man and animal, failure of crops and unusual weather were the recounted experiences of previous Mautaam famine.

Meanwhile ZEPADA has issued an SOS to Chief Minister O Ibobi, urging him provide relief assistance, free distribution of rice, and immediate release of famine related funds.

Despite the hue and cry of civil societies, the media and inter-ministerial team assessment and promises, the Government has so far released only a mere 4500 quintals of rice so far.

ZEPADA has also drawn the CM's attention to the worsening situation due to unexplained phenomenon, such as sudden death of children in Tipaimukh and Thanlon, reports of animal plague and abnormal monsoon.

"If the situation remains unchecked there is fear of large-scale starvation deaths (man and animal) due famine in the area," said the organization championing the cause of the suffering masses.


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