TODAY -

Manipuri drivers primary source of 'Loyalty tax'
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: September 10, 2022 -



THE recent report by the National Crime Records Bureau that the number of cognisable crimes in Nagaland - 67.2 persons per 1 lakh population, was the lowest among the states - when compared with publication of the New Indian Express that the same state recorded the highest rate of crime under 'extortion and blackmailing' in 2021 at 7.6 per cent against the national average of 0.8 per cent underscore that the perpetrators are taking extreme precautionary measures to avert possible public backlash in case of overt or excessive anti-people activities.

These reports corroborate that whichever outfits indulging in collection of unauthorised taxes have been able to balance their act so to ensure that the extortion activities continue to thrive but without causing any serious disturbance to the commoners.

While some armed outfits, in-spite of being bound by ceasefire agreements with the Union government, continue to call the shots in specific areas under their so-called operational jurisdiction, there are others whose networks of extortion have no geographical boundary, though their actual extortion points are along the national highway stretch in Nagaland sector.

That extortion has been perennial and rampant in Nagaland could be comprehended from the Naga Hoho president HK Zhimomi terming the unauthorised tax collection activities as 'loyalty tax' for use of Nagaland's territory.

Such a statement from leader of an apex Naga body also lays bare the fact that commercial vehicles plying to and from Manipur are making huge contributions to fill the coffers of the armed outfits based in the neighbouring state.

A recent decision of the Nagaland government had significantly reduced the number of police check gates along the national highways but such a move wouldn't deter the extortionists from threatening and collecting illegal taxes as both commercial and private vehicles of Manipur prefer the national highway that passes through Nagaland for it is shorter to access Guwahati, which is considered the commercial capital of the northeast, and better maintained compared to the Imphal-Jiribam stretch of the second national highway that connects Manipur with the rest of the country.

As such, regardless of the rate of extortion and blackmailing crimes highest in Nagaland, truckers engaged in transportation of commercial goods into Manipur will continue to take the risk and use the same highway stretch.

The drivers had been the worst sufferers as they were the softest targets when Manipur used to be the epicentre of bandhs/blockades and agitators made it a point to attack goods carriers or transport workers to not only drive home the message that they are the masters of the highways in Manipur but also to force the government authorities cede or accord importance to their demands.

The frequency of bandhs and blockades might have declined notably in the state but safety of the vehicle operators is still uncertain for armed outfits, whose main source of revenue is through extortion money, are unlikely to act saintly if their demands were not honoured, as is evident from report of the national daily about Nagaland topping the chart in terms of crimes related to extortion and blackmailing.



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