The Prime Minister of India announced special package for the North East including Manipur. With the economic assistance from the Central government, the state Government of Manipur planned to expand its airport, that will become the first international airport of the North East. With India looking at Myanmar and at expanding trade relations with South East Asia, Manipur's airport gains much more strategic relevance.
Accordingly, the government notified to acquire about 512 acres of land for modernization and expansion of the runway at Imphal's Tulihal airport to international standards. About 250 families are solely dependent on the acquired agricultural land and its products. The land owners formed a Joint Action Committee to lead the protest. Fearing their loss of shelter and livelihood, on April, 2008, they started their agitation. The committee demanded that cultivable land is already very scarce in the state. According to them the transition of agricultural land to infrastructure development all over the state will exacerbate the food crisis. Apart from the that, the most important concern at the micro level in Manipur is scarcity of cultivable land. This will ultimately lead to increasing poverty levels and cause loss of livelihoods .
Infochangeindia.org reports that "Over the years since 1960, approximately 600 acres of arable land have been acquired already for the expansion of Tulihal airport. "Yet, while the land remains unutilised or under the occupation of security forces inside the airport premises, those uprooted from their age-old familial dwellings are facing threats to their survival. The compensation was a mere four acres to a family," says K Lanngamba, president of United Committee Manipur (UCM)".
The pick of the protest was reached in 2008, when Police used forces and during a protest march in August 2008, they fired teargas shells and exploded bombs to clear road blockades put up by villagers .
The government had assured the affected families of suitable compensation. Also, the government has estimated that this expansion plan will generate employment in tourism industry. Although the tourism has huge potential in Manipur, JAC is unconvinced with the airport expansion plan. JAC said that tourism could never compensate the reduction in production bases. They demanded that policymakers need to look at a more inclusive development model for the state. They cited the example of countries like Nepal, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. These countries are attracting tourists despite their small airports and short single runways .