TODAY -

Economic Blockade: Really Serving any Purpose?

Martha J *



Manipur is a geographically disadvantaged state being landlocked and located at one extreme of India. The state is serviced by two main surface arteries National Highway (NH) 39 and NH 53 from rest of the country. This natural disadvantage of the state is being exploited by vested interests often in clamping economic blockades on the two feeder arteries to the state. This is done as an arm twisting tool against the state government or the central government.

On 11-12 April 2010 midnight, All-Naga Students Association (ANSAM) began economic blockade on the NH-39 (Imphal-Dimapur) and NH-53 (Imphal-Silchar) protesting against Okram Ibobi Singh government's decision to hold the Autonomous District Council polls in tribal hill districts. ANSAM argued that ADC Act suppresses tribal rights. United Naga Council (UNC) backed the blockade. A 68 days (11 Apr 10 to 18 Jun10) economic blockade was imposed on Manipur by ANSAM and UNC. The blockade was temporarily withdrawn on 18 Jun 10 after political intervention giving relief to all, but it was re-imposed again on 04 Aug 10 for 20 days and then extended for another 25 days wef 25 Aug 10.

Now this extension of economic blockade is for four demands of United Naga Council (UNC) viz: judicial inquiry into the killings of two youth in Mao gate incident on 06 May 10, withdrawal of restrictions under Cr pc 144, withdrawal of Manipur state security forces from Mao gate and removal of 'wanted tag' from the names of Naga leaders and rewards thereto.

As we all know Economic Blockade has severely affected Manipur. It has resulted in artificial shortages and sky rocketing of prices for essential commodities making them beyond the reach of common man. It is shocking to know that one LPG cylinder is costing as high as Rs. 1200/- and petrol being sold at Rs. 200/- plus per liter and price of staple food rice is much higher than the affordable price. It has made people use cycles for commuting and cut down on expenses of food for survival.

In the end who is suffering? It is the common man like u and me. It is the common middleclass man in Manipur who needed food and medicines to survive and fuel to move around. The upper class and the so called families of politicians and bureaucrats are not suffering. They are rich and they do not have any problems even in moving to Kolkata and other places, even to foreign countries in the time of crisis.

The pinch is to a common middle class man who is getting affected and who is not going to fulfill any of the four demands for which the blockade is on. I as a citizen of India who is only watching the happenings from a distance sincerely doubt whether imposing blockades will really serve any purpose? Will the demands of the organizations listened to by the government, just because of this blockade? Is there no other way left out in the so called democratic state of Manipur? Even if government listens to UNC only by means of this blockade then also will it react positively to them and at what cost?

This blockade is troubling everyone including the ones who are imposing this blockade and including the ones for whom this blockade is being imposed. The economy of Manipur is hampered but it is clearly seen that trade is getting affected in the adjoining state Nagaland also. Business of several people especially daily wage earners, rice hotels, transporters etc is getting affected. There was news in media that Hongkong Market in Dimapur collapsing due to economic blockade. Already security forces have been deployed to guard the transport carrying food and essential commodities like LPG and petrol / diesel to Manipur. Central government has given permission to Manipur to import rice from Myanmar. Both state and central governments are trying to take out ways to help the poor people of Manipur.

But I doubt whether anyone is looking into the demands of these student groups. State government had come forward for a meeting with UNC and ANSAM but these groups refused any meeting and negotiations with the state government. Is it really required? I as a citizen feel the miseries of people have intensified again, prices of essential commodities gone up and unscrupulous traders have benefited due to artificial shortages created in the state. Rich is becoming richer by taking advantage of the situation by doing black marketing and for poor there is no end to hardships. Was this the motive behind imposing the economic blockade? I am sure that the real objective of the blockade was definitely not this. As such in a statement ANSAM leader had committed that 'We do not like this blockade and sufferings of common people, but we do not have any other alternative left.'

The real Naga spirit is humanity, kindness, honesty, truth and values for which Nagas are being respected all over the world. Even Jesus does not want the Nagas 'the true people of god' to indulge in indirect torturing of innocent people. At least now the leaders should look into the hardships of common people and find an alternative or midway. After all, we all are human beings, the children of god. Why the student bodies and their leaders canít be called for talk by government of India. Why some elders and mediators do not intervene to tell these organizations that they are not doing good to humanity. This is wrong and they should stop. Aren't we all the people responsible for all this? We are so busy in our day to day activities that we have closed our eyes and stopped thinking about the hardships of others until and unless it is not affecting us. This blockade should serve as a wakeup call for all of us. We should now seriously head to find a solution.

One more thought is coming to me on this issue. Even if there is no economic blockade Manipur can get cut off in the events of some natural disasters like road blockages due to landslides etc which is very common in hilly areas. There is a need to seriously look into the fact of 'over dependence on singular means of transport'. It is clearly seen that over dependence on these two roads and non development due to lack of foresight in last so many years led to disuse of railway line and slow progress of railway project.

Honorable Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had inaugurated an 84 Km long railway line from Jiribam to Tupul. Efforts are on to complete the project as early as possible. However snail speed of the progress of the project that began in 2003-2004 can be gauged from the fact that barely 1.87 crores out of allotted 3124 crores have been committed to the project till now. On 05 Aug 10 to the relief of all members of the state a goods train carrying 36 metric tons of grains chugged into sleepy station of Jiribam after ten long years.

To save the people of strategically located Manipur under look east policy (LEP), there is a need for concerted approach by the Government to keep all the alternatives open that are devoid of party affiliation, parochialism and are people centric. This should include entry to Churachandpur through Mizoram. Manipur should develop good alternative route to connect Manipur not only to India but also has potential to link to ASEAN nation. It is not only the Government but people also need to take initiative to attribute permanency and continuity to the administrative efforts.

A very good example is here which everyone must know and think about. People of Paphar village in Tiabar subdivision of Jorhat District by own efforts have made the village of 90 hutments peaceful, progressive and free from the influence of militancy. No youth wants to join or support the cause of UGs but wants to study and progress. Everyone is convinced that this alone will lead to development of the area they belong to, development of the state they belong to and development of the country they belong to.

At least now it's time that we should think and take actions that humanity is not betrayed. It is time to think and find a solution towards peace and end the long time sufferings of all the human beings. All the states in North East should develop and prosper together under the umbrella of India which is known for the true spirit of 'unity in diversity' and is one of the biggest democracies in the world where every individual is happy, independent and prospering and developing at the same time.


* Martha J contributes regularly to e-pao.net. The writer can be contacted at marthajohn27[AT]gmail[DOT]com
This article was webcasted on September 15, 2010.



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