Sixty-eight days of economic blockade since July 31 this year has crippled the common man in the landlocked bordering state of Manipur, even as the state government and the Centre failed to persuade agitators to withdraw the blockade.
The Special Area Demarcated Autonomous Region (SADAR) Hills District Demand Committee launched the economic blockade on Imphal-Dimapur-Numaligarh (Assam) National Highway 39 and the Imphal-Jiribam-Silchar (Assam) NH 53 the two life lines of the state -- since July 31 demanding conversion of the Kuki tribe-majority SADAR hills area in Naga-majority Senapati district into a full-fledged district.
On the other hand, United Naga Committee, which is opposing the Kukis' demand for district status to SADAR Hills, launched a counter-economic blockade on the same two national highways on August 21.
As the Congress-led coalition government in Manipur headed by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is groping for an effective way to make agitators withdraw the blockade, life in Manipur has been crippled by soaring prices of food-items, fuel and scarcity of medicines.
Though the government has arranged security for vehicles carrying food items, medicines and fuel along the NH 53 once a week, it has not been sufficient.
"Cost of an LPG cylinder in the grey market has crossed Rs 2000, while petrol is being sold at Rs 200 a liter. Even onions are being sold at Rs 40-45 a kilo, while potatoes are priced at Rs 35-40 a kg. The price of pulses too has risen exponentially. People are scared at there is no immediate solution in sight," said Th Joykumar, a resident of Imphal.
Leader of the state Communist Party of India, a partner in the ruling coalition, Dr M Narasingh said, "The crisis is getting complicated every day. We have told the state government to do whatever it has to solve the crisis immediately. The Central government has failed miserably to provide adequate security along the national highways to facilitate smooth movement of vehicles carrying essentials and medicines."
The chief minister has constituted a district reorganisation commission to look into the demand for a separate district by Kukis in Sadar Hills and requested the agitating groups to be patient till the report of the commission is out.
Nagas in the four hill districts of Manipur Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Chandel and Senapati vehemently oppose the Kukis' demand for creation of a new district the SADAR Hills carving out three subdivisions of Kangpokpi, Saikul and Saitu Gamphazol from the district of Senapati.
The United Naga Committee has alleged a ploy to divide hills tribe in the Kukis' demand for SADAR hills district. The rivalry between Nagas and Kukis is very old. The Kukis are wary of the greater Nagalaim demand of Naga rebel group National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM, which has been in dialogue with the government.
"In 1982, the Manipur government had cleared the decision to create a separate SADAR Hills district. We just want its implementation," said Ngamkhohao Haokip, president of SADAR Hills Districthood Demand Committee.
Meanwhile, the SHDDC has reiterated that it was not going to withdraw the blockade unless its demand for a separate district was met.