Blockade may affect poll process in Manipur
Source: The Sangai Express / PTI
New Delhi, January 18 2017:
The election process in at least 30 Assembly Constituencies in Manipur is likely to be affected as a key National Highway in the State continues to remain blocked for 80 days due to agitation by a Naga group.
The Central Government seems to be in a fix over its limited options in removing the blockade on NH-2 in Manipur as it is not keen to impose President's Rule and the law and order is completely under the domain of the State Government.
"The highway touches directly or indirectly at least 30 Assembly Constituencies.
There will be problems in campaigning, transporting polling officials, EVMs and arranging other logistics," a senior Home Ministry official said.
Election to the 60-member Manipur Assembly will be held in two phases on March 4 and 8 .
Even though conducting polls is the responsibility of the Election Commission, Central Government is concerned over the crisis of essential commodities and their skyrocketing prices.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and senior officials discussed the Manipur situation at a meeting on Sunday but could not find out any solution to remove the blockade.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had been roped in to give suggestions on protection of Central properties – the NHs.
Rohatgi was of the opinion that even though protection of National Highways is Central Government's prerogative, it cannot remove anyone if he or she is staging protest on it as law and order is a "State subject" .
"We are in a dilemma as to what to do to remove the blockade as President's Rule is not a favourable option," the official said.
The Home Ministry has sent around 17,500 paramilitary personnel, 4,000 of them in last 10 days, to Manipur to help the State Government in removing the blockade.
"But despite availability of forces, the blockade continues and people are suffering," the official said.
The UNC imposed since November 1 the economic blockade on NH-2 (Imphal- Dimapur) and NH-37 (Imphal-Jiribam) that serve as lifelines for the landlocked Manipur.
While NH-37 was partially reopened, there is no traffic movement on NH-2.In a stern message, the Centre had told the Manipur Government last month that it cannot escape responsibility for the "humanitarian crisis" arising out of the blockade and must work to end it, while making it clear that nobody will be allowed to take political advantage of the situation.
Home Minister Singh had written twice to Chief Minister Ibobi Singh asking him to ensure reopening of the highway but it did not yield any result.
Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju too had visited the Congress-ruled Manipur as a Central emissary.
Rijiju had said it was completely unacceptable to have such blockades in which thousands of people were suffering and both the Central and Manipur Governments will work together to end it.
"The State Government has not been able to end the blockade.
It must end as soon as possible as law and order is the responsibility of the State Government.
Nobody will be allowed to take political advantage out of a humanitarian crisis where common people are suffering," he had said.