'Feels Like Home': Manipur Returnees Heap Praise on Quarantine Centre Opened by Assembly Speaker

Manipur Assembly Speaker Yumnam Khemchand, who had once reserved his decision on the disqualification of seven Congress MLAs for ‘defecting’ to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and helped form a coalition government in 2017, is busy now discharging his responsibilities during the coronavirus lockdown.

Khemchand has opened a quarantine centre inside Manipur College under Singjamei Assembly Constituency in Imphal West for people returning from different parts of the country and abroad.

Locals are thankful for having a ‘leader who has people’s interests in heart’.

“When I was in Delhi, I heard that this is one of the best quarantine facilities in Manipur, and even though I could have stayed at a hotel or a paid quarantine facility, I returned to my hometown and chose to stay here. Though my family is not here, it feels like home,” said 43-year-old Kshetrimayum Sanatomba who returned from the national capital on May 26.

The Singjamei quarantine facility has a planned capacity of up to 300 beds, and a separate accommodation for those who have not been tested for coronavirus yet.

Khemchand said the centre was launched a day before the state government announced the setting up of institutional quarantine units in every district.

“We started this facility from May 2 with financial support from local clubs and Meira Paibis (Manipuri women). This arrangement is run solely on donations and with help from volunteers. We have divided work by forming different committees to look after different aspects - food, transport, water and sanitation. I oversee everything, and help them get the work done,” Khemchand told News18, adding that 82 people are currently being accommodated at the quarantine centre, while 105 returnees have been released.

Julia Nameirakpam, a 27-year-old communication technology professional who returned from Gurugram, said inmates at the centre along with the volunteers are adhering to high standards of hygiene and social distancing measures.

“It is the fourth day of my stay here, and I am finding it very comfortable. There is a separate provision for male and female returnees. We get three wholesome meals a day, and also evening tea and snacks. Non-vegetarian dishes are served three days a week. The food is prepared by Meitei Brahmin cooks, and we love it because we grew up on this kind of food. We have daily doctor visits, uninterrupted power supply and drinking water facilities – we get mineral water bottles,” said Nameirakpam.

“We are staying in a classroom, and am sharing it with three others, maintaining social distancing. We will be issued a certificate on completion of 14 days. Since I have not been tested yet, I am not allowed to mingle with the rest of them, but I will be moved to another room soon after my test,” she added.

Khemchand, who is also the founder-president of Assam Taekwondo Association, believes that it is essential to maintain good health, and while he practises taekwondo daily, he has also distributed sports equipment to the inmates in his quarantine facility to help them spend time actively.

“By God’s grace, we do not have a single positive case from our quarantine centre, and there is no community spread in Manipur so far. We must stay healthy, and I encourage everyone to stay physically active, even if they have to be in quarantine,” said the former martial arts player. Most of them at the community centre are away from their families, but even under quarantine conditions, they are finding ways to keep fit and relieve stress.

“We do not have television, but we do have mobile phones to speak to friends. We are happy to be spending our leisure time actively – playing badminton in the big hall that feels like an Indoor Stadium. We also practice yoga and light exercises. Moreover, they organise small weekly concerts for us where local artistes perform,” said Sanatomba, while thanking the 69-year-old BJP legislator for the initiative.