Imphal: For some, it
has become a way of life. As the economic blockade in Manipur
crossed an unprecedented 90 days, its residents continue to wait
for a miraculous breakthrough, even as the situation has only
become worse - with prices of essential commodities touching the
sky and health services worsening.
"The situation has only become worse," said a worried K.H. Phalin,
managing director of the Shija hospital in Manipur. "Despite our
best efforts, we have had to turn away seriously ill patients
because of lack of life saving drugs and oxygen cylinders."
"It's a helpless situation and a real emergency," Phalin, who is a
surgeon in one of the state's biggest private hospitals, told
According to Phalin, Manipur does not have a medical gas plant of
its own and relies on the nearby state of Assam. As a result of
the stir, the price of oxygen cylinder has therefore gone up - by
Ever since the blockade began Aug 1, the price of fuel and
household commodities have also shot up. The blockade, activist
Madhu Chandra says, has "unleashed" the black market.
"There is a general scarcity of goods, but most of the things are
available, but only at higher prices. Fuel for instance - it will
be announced that petrol will be available from 7 a.m. tomorrow
and from midnight people start queuing up their vehicles outside
the fuel station," Chandra said.
"Next morning, you will get the fuel, but after about two hours
they will say that it's over. However, if you go to the market,
you will get fuel, but at a higher price. It means that the black
marketers are getting their supply and exploiting the people," he
So, while in other states, the price of petrol is around Rs.67 a
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.
Then again, a kilo of potatoes will cost you around Rs.40-50 and
onions at Rs.60-70.
"But people have to eat. They can't die of hunger. So they have to
buy," said Manisha Singha, a student.
"At my home, we have stopped using gas cylinder because it's just
so precious! It's like we have gone back in time and use firewood.
We also try and make do with home grown vegetables and fish from
the local pond," she added.
"I wonder how long will this continue. I just want my life to go
back to normal," added Singha's younger brother aged 10, Raju.
Probably, the only time when the state forgot about their daily
struggles, was when Manipur celebrated one of its biggest
festivals, Ningol Chakouba, Friday.
While the mood was celebratory - and further complimented by the
ready availability of fish, an important ingredient of the
festivities - many had to tone down their celebrations because of
the steep prices of other items.
The blockade was called by the Sadar Hills District Demand
Committee (SHDDC) in demand that the Sadar Hills sub-division in
the Naga-dominated Senapati district in northern Manipur be
upgraded as a full-fledged district.
The United Naga Council, the apex body of Nagas in Manipur, has
also been organising a counter-road blockade in all Naga-inhabited
areas in northern Manipur, demanding that these areas should not
be carved out without their consent.
As the people of the state continue to suffer in this tussle,
union Home Minister P. Chidambaram is expected to visit the state
Nov 2-3. "I hope a breakthrough is achieved soon. People's medical
bills have gone up, because hospitals are charging more for
treatment, which they too can't help. I constantly pray that my
family or friends don't become casualties to this blockade, like
others have. Is anyone listening?," said Chandni Jain, a student
of Delhi University, who hails from Imphal.
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)