60-day blockade brings Manipur to its knees
A litre of
petrol at Rs.200 in the black market and a cooking gas cylinder
for Rs.1,500 or more... After two months of a blockade in Manipur,
world boxing champion Mary Kom says she's at her wits' end trying
to balance training for the Olympics with the slow process of
cooking with firewood. »
Imphal: It's hard to
see anything positive coming out of the 60-day economic blockade
in Manipur. But the blockade and counter blockade by two
communities have actually led to a new wave of consciousness in
this northeastern state with people, particularly youngsters,
getting together and demanding a change in the present state of
With assembly elections due next year, many people are networking
online and off it too to organise themselves and be the arbiters
of their own "destiny" in the Congress-led state wracked by
Anguished by the poor state of affairs in his home state, Bimol
Akoijam has started an online campaign on the social networking
site Facebook titled 'People's Campaign for Assembly Election
2012: Deciding Our Destiny'.
"It's time we act in order to have a life with dignity and
well-being. The right to choose our political leadership is the
basis for the change that we are seeking. The aim is to make the
political class accountable for the mess and decadence that we are
in today," Akoijam wrote on his Facebook page.
The economic blockade called by the Sadar Hills District Demand
Committee (SHDDC) Aug 1 and a counter blockade called later by the
United Naga Council have crippled normal life in Manipur, making
prices of household commodities soar and resulting in acute
scarcities, including of life-saving drugs.
Among the various activities planned is one on Oct 18 that aims to
bring together all those who have moved out of the state for
education, employment or other purposes and take their help in
spreading awareness about the upcoming assembly elections and urge
people to vote for the right candidate and make it an "issue-based
The meet, which is to take place in different cities across the
country, has found many takers.
Yet another online group, 'Debate on Economic Blockade in Manipur'
has scores of followers voicing their opinion.
"The economic blockade is happening because some people have
political authority over their tribe, but even their own tribe
people condemn this (blockade). Majority of people- whatever be
their tribe- are suffering because of this," wrote Achilles
"The people of Manipur have been taken for a ride for far too
long," said Sharmila Singha, a homemaker from one of the worst
affected districts, Chandel. "Because of the interest of a handful
of people, the entire state is in doldrums. And all the while the
government has not been able to do anything about it."
The main bone of contention in the logjam is the demand by the
SHDDC for a separate Sadar Hills district, which is strictly
opposed by some other sects as the area also includes some ethnic-Naga
So, as the clashing communities remain firm on their demands, the
rest of the state looks on helplessly and pays a heavy price.
Therefore, even as people in other states protest the rise of
petrol prices to Rs.67 per litre, in Manipur it is being sold at
around Rs.200 in the black market. An LPG cylinder can cost
anywhere between Rs.1,800-2,000.
"We have gone back to using firewood for cooking. How can anyone
afford a cylinder at such prices? Whatever be the issue, it's
always...always the common man who suffers," said a bitter
Priyanka Yumnam, a homemaker.
Madhu Chandra, who hails from Manipur and is the spokesperson of
the Northeast Support Centre in Delhi, told IANS: "There is a
feeling that there is a dearth of things in the state, but these
are available in the black market for those who can afford the
high prices...the blockade has therefore unleashed corruption in a
Mandira Singha, a 20-year-old who lost her father to the blockade
because of lack of life-saving drugs, added: "There is government
apathy towards our condition. It's been 60 days and nothing has
been done by the centre. Why? Had this happened anywhere else in
the country would the reaction have been the same?"
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