Manipur petrol vends run dry, Nagas continue with blockade

Imphal, Dec 5 (IANS) Petrol vends in Manipur are dry and cooking gas unavailable as a result of the indefinite economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council (UNC) since November 1, an official admitted on Monday.

The United Committee Manipur on Sunday served a 72-hour ultimatum, beginning at midnight, on the UNC to roll back its over a month-long blockade. But the Naga organisation did not respond.

The UCM asked the UNC to call off the blockade in view of the untold hardships faced by the state’s people since all supply lines were blocked.

The Manipur High Court directed the state government to beef up security measures and protect vehicles and highways, as well as the bridges.

The central government was yet to despatch adequate number of paramilitary personnel to police the highways and guard the bridges along the two national highways, NH-2 and NH-37.

Senior officials told IANS that over 400 trucks and oil tankers were stranded at Jiribam, adjacent to Assam.

“Once the armed personnel are sent there, these vehicles will proceed towards Imphal,” a police officer said.

Nearly 500 trucks, oil tankers and gas tankers are also parked at Keithelmanbi, near Imphal, headed to Jiribam.

A driver said, “We will go to Silchar and other parts of Assam from Jiribam to fetch various commodities, including the badly needed fuel.”

A litre of petrol was selling for Rs 300 or more outside the closed petrol vends. However, there were no reports of any arrest.

Most consumer items have also vanished from the markets in Manipur.

The police kept a vigil on the NH-2 and NH-37 fearing thefts, lifting and pilferages of various commodities from Assam as no security was given to the vehicles plying between Imphal and Moreh, the town on the border with Myanmar along the Trans Asian highway No 1.

Earlier, UNC activists torched a mini truck and badly damaged seven others along this highway in Chandel district.

Police officials said, “It is impossible to give total security cover to thousands of vehicles plying along the mountainous highways with numerous hairpin bends.”

“UNC activists appear out of any place to attack the drivers and damage the vehicles.”

The UNC resorted to road blockade on NH-2 and NH-37 to protest the state government’s reported decision to create separate districts out of Jiribam and Sadar Hills, without consulting the Naga inhabitants.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh did not budge from his stand. He recently said, “Land belongs to government and not to any tribe. It is for administrative convenience to create new districts.”

“The new creations are the prerogative of the government and not any group. We did not take part in the proposed tripartite meeting since we were not given any formal invitation,” he said in reference to the tripartite talks called by the Centre.

There were multiple counter blockades to prevent transportation of various goods to the tribal areas. However, the UNC has turned a deaf ear to the orchestrated appeals from all organisations.