Most of us in Manipur must have heard of the ImaKeithel or the Ima Market in Imphal, Manipur. It is a market run exclusively by women and is currently located in Khwairamband Bazaar, Imphal. It is a commercial center and a popular tourist attraction in the state of Manipur. It is also the largest all-women market in Asia. It is well known for offering a wide array of products from local farms, artisanal crafts, and delicious foods.
With the increasing role of women in both social and economic spheres, it has become imperative for the government to create facilities and infrastructures to create conditions for women to flourish both socially and economically. The need of the hour is the construction of market places in other hill districts too. This is because we have hard-working women not only in adjoining areas of Imphal but also in different areas of the state.
The State Government has taken special care to improve infrastructure in the hill districts. This is a great step to bridge the gap between the hill-valley divide. The government has constructed and inaugurated seven women markets at Churachandpur, Ukhrul, Jiribam, Kangpokpi, Tamenglong, Senapati, and Chandel district headquarters. Manipur Police Housing Corporation Limited constructed the women’s markets under the One Time Special Assistance of Central Plan Scheme,2017-18. It was able to be completed within a short period of time.
The construction of the market buildings was under a broad objective to cater to public needs and convenience. It was also to specifically provide immense economic opportunities to rural women who had always been a part of the rural economy in many ways.
The women’s market at the Churachandpur district headquarter is named “Nute Bazaar” (Women market). It was inaugurated by the Honourable Prime Minister of India, NarendraModi on 16th March 2018 and has been functioning since then. The market sells local fruits, vegetables, and cosmetics. It has accommodation of 178 women vendors.
The “Women’s Market” at the Ukhrul district headquarter was inaugurated by the Honourable Chief Minister of Manipur, N Biren Singh on 24th April 2018 and has been functioning since then. The market has open commercial slots on the ground floor and other stalls on the first floor to accommodate 210 women vendors.
The inauguration of the women’s market at Jiribam headquarter was done on 19th September 2018. It is named the “Jiri ImaKeithel” (Women market) and has an accommodation of 180 women vendors.The “NuteKailhang” (Women’s market) at the Kangpokpi district headquarter was inaugurated on 19th October 2018. The market has been functional and beneficial not only to the people of the district but also to the people who come to visit there. It can accommodate 210 women vendors.
The “Rani Gaidinliu Women Market” (Women market) at the Tamenglong headquarter has been functioning greatly accommodating 173 women vendors since its inauguration in October 2018. To mention, Rani Gaidinliu was an iconic woman of Northeast India. She was a Naga spiritual and political leader who led a revolt against British rule in India.
The “ApfiiSaliki” (Women’s market) at the Senapati district headquarter and the “Women market” at Japhou Bazar of Chandel district headquarter have also been functioning greatly accommodating 210 women vendors each.
The hills in Manipur offer nature lovers an enchanting sight that keeps them wondering. With its surreal beauty, they provide a sense of serenity to the onlookers. The hill districts in Manipur have become popular tourist destinations for people all over the world creating a unique brand of beauty that is not seen elsewhere. Like, Ukhrul is known for its beautiful hills, its beautiful flower called the Shirui Lily, its different caves, etc.
We have the “ImaKeithel” in the hub of Imphal city which has become a tourist place in Manipur. The addition of all the other new women markets in the different hill districts of Manipur is a great step taken up by the Government for the people in the hill districts. This will also help in expanding the economy of the state.
The local products of the different hill districts can now be sold in their market places. Earlier, they used to transport all these products to be sold at the Ima Market in Imphal. This inconvenience has been reduced to some extent as of now. Also, there are certain special products of their areas like the popular “Sirarakhong chilly” of Ukhrul, oranges of Tamenglong, lemons of Kachai (Ukhrul district). The different hill districts will be able to showcase and sell off their special products in their areas without transporting them to other places. This will help them cut down on transportation expenses. Even the products from the Imphal area can be sent to these markets, facilitating trade exchange within the state. The women vendors now no longer face hardships of sun and shower as they have got shelter at the market places. This step taken up by the government is like giving a home to the homeless.
As Manipur lacks much of the resources in contributing to tourism, the development of the different markets at different hill areas of the state will help in contributing to tourism development.