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Prices skyrocket as Manipur blockade continues

By The Assam Tribune

IMPHAL, June 6 � The indefinite economic blockade of lifeline routes NH - 39 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH - 53 (Imphal-Silchar) in Manipur by agitating Naga groups entered the 55th day today as prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed with hundreds of trucks remaining stranded.

The All Naga Students� Association Manipur (ANSAM) launched the blockade on April 12 to protest against holding of elections to six autonomous district councils in the Hills which, it alleged, were given not enough power to carry out development works. The charge was, however, denied by the Manipur Government.

Due to the blockade, which was intensified after the State refused entry to NSCN (IM) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah on May 3, regular supply of essential commodities have been stopped, causing the prices to shoot up.

A litre of petrol now costs between Rs 120 and Rs 150, onion Rs 28 and rice Rs 26 per kg. But despite the exorbitant prices, many essential commodities were not simply available, official sources said.

Before the blockade, between 300 to 400 trucks carrying the essentials were plying daily on the two National Highways, the sources said.

On May 12, the Manipur Government had decided to bring hundreds of stranded trucks, loaded with essential items, from Silchar to Imphal via Jiribam, a distance of 212 kms, by providing security.

However, the authorities in spite of the Cabinet decision used NH 150 from Silchar to Imphal via Aizawl, a distance of 512 kms. Sources said very few trucks could be brought along this route because of the difficult terrain.

Some local organisations launched a counter-blockade and prevented trucks going to Hill districts, where the Naga population is concentrated, but it was later withdrawn on the request of Food and Civil Supply Minister Y Erabot.

Sources said on May 22, Erabot with the help of around 14 personnel security officers brought more than 300 stranded loaded trucks from Jiribam to Imphal. Meanwhile, thousands of vehicle-owners were having a difficult time in refuelling their vehicles. Only a few petrol pumps are open, that too once or twice a week, the sources said.

Although the elections to autonomous district councils ended on June 2, the ANSAM is still continuing with the blockade.

Last Friday, Union Home Secretary GK Pillai during a visit to Shillong had asked the students organisations to lift the blockade or face consequences. The situation assumed an even more sinister dimension when the Naga Students Federation launched a blockade on the Nagaland side of the vital NH - 39 on May 4 on an entirely different issue.

The NSF blocked Manipur-bound vehicles after the Manipur police barred a group of student leaders from entering inter-State Mao Gate on May 3.

The NSF, while reacting to Pillai�s statement, today said if the Union Home Secretary was really interested in solving the crisis, he had to be �more sensible and impartial�.

In a statement, NSF President Mutsikhoyo Yhobu said the agitation had been launched by different Naga outfits in protest against the �oppressive policies of O Ibobi Singh Government in Manipur�.

The NSF alleged that the blockade was first imposed by the Ibobi Singh Government to restrict the movement of Naga people by deploying police forces on NH 39 at Mao Gate.� PTI

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