Betel leaves brought in cargo planes sparks uproar

IMPHAL, 4th Apr: Students’ bodies as well as civil society organisations demanded that the government authorities clarify over transportation of betel leaves in cargo planes which were officially requisitioned to deliver medicines and other essential goods to ease hardships besetting the people due to the ongoing lockdown.
Four different cargo planes landed at Imphal Airport on Saturday carrying daily essential items, medicines, etc., but predominantly, betel leaves.
According to reports, a Spice Jet flight landed at Imphal from Kolkata around 9.30 am Saturday. The flight did not carry any items other than 6.7 tonne of betel leaves. At about 10.30 am, an Indigo flight landed at Bir Tikendrajit International Airport carrying medicines. An Air-Asia flight landed at around 12.30 pm with over 3 tonne of betel leaves as half of the cargo, while the other half consisted of food items.
Moreover, around 5 in the afternoon, an Indian Air Force cargo flight IL76 touched down at Imphal Airport carrying medicines for the state Medical Department, along with other items. The staffers of medical department have received the said items, the reports added.
Meanwhile, Manipuri Students’ Federation (MSF) president Sajad Bhuyamayum has demanded the state government to look into the betel leaves cargo, which was airlifted to the state on Saturday instead of protective equipment for the medical professionals to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Informing that volunteers of MSF went to Imphal airport after receiving inputs of betel leaves being airlifted to the state on Saturday; Sajad said that the entire country including the state is in lockdown as precautionary measure against COVID-19. As such, it is highly inappropriate that betel leaves were brought in instead of essential items and protective equipment like mask, sanitizers and PPEs.
Contending that the betel leaves must not leave the Airport campus, the president demanded the state government to look into the matter and reveal the owner of the said cargo to the people. He further demanded the state government to destroy the betel leaves publicly.
Kangleipak Students’ Association (KSA) also demanded the government to make public why the betel leaves were imported instead of necessary food items.
While appealing to the government to ensure availability of essential commodities to daily wagers and distressed families who are facing immense hardship due to the public curfew and lockdown imposed for combating COVID-19, KSA affirmed that it will continue to provide relief aid and materials to students and distressed families in the state. On Saturday, the student body distributed edible items and vegetables to the students who are staying on rents at Canchipur, Pichu Lampak, Kakwa, Kwakeithel, Chingmeirong and Thangmeiband.
While informing that the association has also provided edible items to families of Moirangthem (o) Ranjana and Thounaojam Thambal both belonging to Narankonjil Mamang Leikai who are living under poverty line, KSA sought attention of the government with regard to the hike of prices of essential items.

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