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UNLF takes microfinance route to woo supporters
Published on 14 Nov. 2010 12:27 AM IST
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In order to woo back local support, North East India’s biggest militant outfit United National Liberation Front (UNLF) has been using microfinance schemes like women’s cooperatives and has already covered 2500 beneficiaries in Manipur and Assam.
Though unreported, this has been going on for the last four years and has regained much of their eroded mass base by a unique grassroots experiment, called Phunga Marup, a microfinance scheme aimed at small entrepreneurs which threatens to render conventional counter insurgency operations futile.
This is a much more insidious and effective route the militants have taken into civil society.
Government loans for small-scale entrepreneurs are still very difficult to get, so they identify areas like weaving, fishery, and piggery. They go to the Social Welfare Department, get a list of loan seekers and create self-help groups mostly of women.
Groups of ten to twelve women are formed and loans of three thousand rupees given for a period of three months at a daily interest rate of a rupee.
“We applied with the Government earlier but never got any help so we gave up trying. Who will sponsor us,” questions a Phunga Marup beneficiary.
The failure of the government at every level has allowed militias to gain control.
“They are building up the ground support by somehow investing small entrepreneurs. It’s like a government poverty alleviation programme,” claims Prof Amar Yumnam, Director, Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University.

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