IMPHAL, Jan 14 (IANS): Manipur on Thursday observed the 27th Drivers' Day held in the memory of hundreds of drivers and cleaners who are killed, injured or go missing while on duty.
There was no public transport in the city on Thursday since the drivers abstained from work.
The main function was held at Langjing Achouba by the All Manipur Transport Drivers and Motor Workers Union. Events were also held across the state.
The day remembered hundreds of drivers and cleaners, who become easy targets of extortionists, militants, and highway robbers. Many drivers have been killed or kidnapped in the recent past.
According to K. Kulamani, vice president of the All Manipur Road Trasport and Motor Workers Union, as many as 211 drivers have so far been killed by criminals, who have not been accounted for.
When a cleaner was shot dead in Zubza in Nagaland on January 13, 1990, drivers in Manipur went on strike for nine days demanding justice, and decided to observe Drivers' Day every year on January 14.
On Thursday, floral tributes were paid at the photographs of the dead or missing drivers and cleaners.
A driver named Sekho told IANS that it was very unfortunate that even today, killings, assault and kidnappings of drivers by militants continue.
Other drivers lamented that the central government has turned down the Manipur government's demand for a highway protection force.
When he was defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee said in Imphal that since it was a law and order issue, the Manipur government should use its own forces to provide security to drivers.
CPI leader Sotin Kumar, who is associated with welfare schemes of drivers, meanwhile, demanded that drivers should be paid a salary of Rs.15,000.
He said the government should take up steps for the protection of drivers along the national highways.
"Apart from killings and assault, sometimes loaded trucks are torched and the criminals have never been accounted for," he alleged.