A part of the landmark all-women market in Manipur’s capital Imphal was damaged after Monday’s early morning earthquake that killed 11 people, including two minors, and injured more than 50 in the state.
The 150-year-old Ima Keithel or Mothers’ Market complex, which is run exclusively by women, was damaged in the quake. Officials said a few buildings also collapsed and an arterial bridge was damaged.
Some 4,000 women vendors arrive early morning at this market complex in the city’s Khwairamband area to sell their wares till sundown. The quake prevented many of them from carrying out their business, but many were thankful the quake happened at a time – 4.35am – when the vendors were yet to arrive.
“Some of us would not have been alive to tell the tale had the quake occurred during business hours. God perhaps saved us by issuing a warning about the quality of construction of the market complex,” A Memba Devi, a vendor, said.
The 6.7 magnitude earthquake that hit the country’s remote northeast region killed at least 11 people, injured more than 100 and caused damage to several buildings. Tremors were also felt across the belt, including in the bordering regions of Myanmar, Bangladesh and Tibet.
Officials confirmed eight deaths in Manipur but said the casualty could go up, as they awaited reports from remote areas of Tamenglong district that bore the brunt of the quake. The epicentre was 17km below Noney village in that district.
The panicky vendors refused to open shop in their allotted space within the complex and protested poor facilities by blocking the main road leading to the market.
Ima Market used to comprise several rows of tin sheds until the state government decided to construct a permanent complex three decades ago. Amid accusations of corruption by local authorities, the complex was inaugurated by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in November 2010.
Former Manipur governor Vinod Kumar Duggal had in 2014 asked the Ibobi Singh government to spruce up the market complex that was in a dilapidated condition with clogged drains, leaking roofs and poor toilet facilities for the women.
“The complex needs renovation with all modern facilities made available,” Duggal had said after visiting the complex.
Ima Keithel is iconic not only for trading by women. It was also the launching pad for various agitations including the 1939 Nupi Lal or the Great Women’s Uprising of 1939 against the economic policies of the British colonists.
Women here sell everything from organic vegetables and dried fish to handloom and handicraft items and cosmetics besides household commodities. Some also sell crisp unsoiled currency notes which are in demand during religious rites.
The currency vendors usually sell wads of fresh Rs 10, 20 and 50 notes for Rs 100-300 more than their face value.