Paramilitary troopers to break Manipur blockade: Pillai

Imphal, June 14 (IANS) The central government Monday said paramilitary troopers would be used to break the over two-month long economic blockade enforced by Naga groups in Manipur to ensure supplies of essentials into the region, facing an acute shortage of food and medicines, officials said.

Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told IANS that troopers from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) would escort trucks carrying food and medicines by National Highway 39 from Assam to Manipur passing through Nagaland.

‘The process would begin from Tuesday and we shall see to it that food supplies reach Manipur,’ Pillai said by telephone from New Delhi.

‘The central government’s decision to use force to break the deadlock has come in late, but still we welcome the move,’ N. Biren Singh, senior minister and Manipur government spokesperson, told IANS.

The chief secretaries of Manipur and Nagaland are meeting Wednesday to sort out the crisis following express orders from the central home ministry to break the deadlock immediately.

Several Naga groups called an indefinite blockade of National Highway 39, Manipur’s main lifeline, April 11 to protest against the decision of the state government not to allow separatist leader Thuingaleng Muivah to visit his birthplace.

The Manipur government had banned 75-year-old Muivah’s trip to his home village, saying it could stoke unrest.

On May 6, six tribal Naga protesters were killed and up to 70 injured in clashes with police as Muivah tried to defy a ban on him returning to his village.

Muivah, leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) has since deferred his visit.

This non-stop blockade let to an acute food crisis in Manipur with trucks carrying essentials and medicines stranded in adjoining Nagaland with protesters laying siege ton National Highway 39.

Landlocked Manipur depends on supplies from outside with trucks from the rest of India carrying essentials passing through Nagaland.

Such was the impact of the blockade that prices of essentials went soaring – a kilogram of rice sold at Rs.100, a liter of petrol at Rs.200, and a cooking gas cylinder at Rs.1,500.

‘We had to even stop routine surgeries as we did not have enough stock of oxygen cylinders,’ said Y. Mohen, superintendent of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS).

RIMS is the only medical college and hospital in Manipur and the biggest healthcare facility in the state of about 2.4 million people.

Now with New Delhi deciding to break the stalemate using force, the people of Manipur are relieved.

‘Maybe we can breathe a little more easily now with the supply routes likely to resume,’ said Bina Devi, a housewife.

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