The COVID-19 pandemic and border dispute continue to take centre stage in Mizoram in 2021 during which the tiny state with limited resources also struggled with multiple crisis, including the influx of Myanmar refugees and the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF).
Mizoram, which was less severely affected by the coronavirus and which received the distinction of being one of the best performing states in tackling the pandemic last year, felt the heat of a devastating second wave of COVID-19 and became one of the worst affected states in the country.
After a brief lull between December 2020 and March this year, the state began to register a spike rise in COVID-19 cases from April and over 1,000 cases in a single day were reported for several weeks, which was a great concern in a tiny state with a population of about 10.91 lakh (2011 census) promoting the state government to impose lockdown for several months since May.
The sustained rise in COVID cases has severely overwhelmed the health infrastructures prompting the Centre to send experts to the state to study the ground situation.
The state reported the first Covid-19 case on 24 March 2020 and the first fatality on October 28 the same year.
According to the health department’s record, at least 4,476 COVID-19 cases and 11 fatalities were reported in the first wave between March 2020 and March 2021, while 1,36,016 cases were detected and 526 people have succumbed to the infection in the second wave from April till December 26 this year.
After a hiatus of only about three months, the border dispute with neighbouring Assam erupted again in February when officials of Mizoram Power and Electric department and a village council member of Bairabi village were beaten up by locals of Assam at Zophai area in Kolasib district bordering Assam’s Hailakandi district.
Tension cropped up in June with both trading charges of encroachment on each other lands when about a hundred officials and policemen from Assam had allegedly entered and seized Aitlang hnar, a plantation area, which both states claimed.
The border dispute took an ugly turn on July 26 when police forces of both states fought a fierce gun battle on the disputed area near Vairengte village on the National Highway 306, leading to the death of six policemen and a civilian from Assam.
About 50 people, including a superintendent of police from Assam, were also injured in the violent clash.
The firing between forces of two Indian states and the subsequent economic blockade on NH-306 by locals of Lailapur in Assam drew flak from different quarters.
However, the escalating tensions were successfully defused after a series of parleys with the intervention of the Centre.
On August 5, a ministerial-level meeting was held in Aizawl during which both states agreed to maintain peace and amicably resolve the boundary dispute through dialogue.
Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga and his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma met over the border issue in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi in November and agreed to form panels of their own involving all stakeholders to resolve the border dispute through dialogue.
Toward this end, both leaders also agreed to have talks at the chief minister level from time to time.
Three Mizoram districts- Aizawl, Mamit and Kolasib share a 164.6 km long inter-state border with Assam’s Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts.
The decade-old border dispute, which stemmed from two colonial demarcations, remain unresolved till now.
Another crisis that rocked the state in 2021 was an influx of refugees from Myanmar.
Fearing atrocities, thousands of Myanmar nationals, including lawmakers and policemen, fled their villages to take refuge in Mizoram.
The Myanmar nationals are currently lodged at relief camps set up by NGOs and villagers while some were accommodated by local relatives in different parts of the state.
Apart from the government, NGOs, churches, student bodies, village authorities and generous individuals provide food, clothing and other aids to the Myanmar nationals.
On several occasions, the state government had sought assistance from the Centre for the Myanmar nationals.
The northeastern state was severely affected by the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF).
The AFS was first reported at Lungsen village in south Mizoram’s Lunglei district in March.
Since then it has spread to all parts of the state killing 29,821 pigs till December 24.
The outbreak has greatly affected pig farmers causing a monetary loss to the tune of about Rs. 8,000 crore till date.
A devastating forest fire ravaged several parts of the state in April and damaged a vast track of forest areas, farmlands and private properties, prompting the state government to seek assistance from the Centre.
Amid severe criticism after the disqualification of opposition Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) MLA Lalduhoma under the anti-defection law, the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) headed by chief minister Zoramthanga suffered a humiliating defeat against the ZPM in the assembly by-poll to Serchhip seat in April but swept the bypoll to Tuirial seat in October and Aizawl Municipal Corporation (AMC) poll in February.
The tussle between the Centre and the state government over the appointment of chief secretary was another big issue that made headlines in the state.
On 28 October, the Centre had appointed Renu Sharma, an AGMUT cadre IAS officer of the 1988 batch, as the chief secretary of Mizoram.
The same day, the Mizoram government also issued a notification directing JC Ramthanga, additional chief secretary of the chief minister, to take charge of the chief secretary until further order.
Despite Zoramthanga’s request to modify the Centre’s order of appointing Renu Sharma as the Chief Secretary of the state and instead appoint a person, who knows the working standard of Mizo language, Sharma continues to occupy the office till date.
The recent case registered against Champhai district magistrate Maria CT Zuali following a complaint filed by illegal transporter over the torching of areca nuts smuggled from Myanmar came as a political storm with oppositions accusing the government of entertaining smugglers to even challenge law enforcement agencies