EVEN as reports have been published that one of the factors for the shortage of petroleum products in economic blockade-hit Manipur is due to the Indian Oil Corporation authority’s inability to utilise the service of maximum number of oil tankers during the on-going siege of the two national highway, information received about contractors of Food Corporation of India reluctant to engage its fleet of trucks to bring in the government-controlled food items at such a critical juncture is akin to rubbing salt to the wounds. At a time when the people of Manipur are facing serious inconvenience due to shortage of essential items and are expecting fullest cooperation from the transporters, the report about the state masses set to be hit hard due to unavailability of the staple food item is the most depressing episode in the current tragic situation that the people are exposed to. Considering the fact that the agitating United Naga Council is unlikely to lift the siege of the national highways and the miseries of the people will only compound, not many would disagree that the FCI contractors are only helping the cause of the blockade sponsors. The dispute over fare for transporting goods along the poorly maintained Imphal-Jiribam section of the National Highway-37 might be another reason for the contractors’ hesitancy in moving along with the loaded as well as empty vehicles, which are being escorted by security forces at regular intervals, but the situation at hand does not permit them to ignore their obligation of serving the public.
On the other-hand, UNC’s firm resolve to intensify its highway blockade agitation along with picketing of government offices, regardless of fervent appeals from different sections of the society, might be intended to cause further hardships to the people in order to bring the Government of Manipur to their knees. The impact of the on-going economic blockade may have infuriated some section of the population as was evident when violence erupted at Khurai area after volunteers enforcing counter economic blockade torched vehicles to protest alleged attempt by security forces to escort passenger carriers despite restriction imposed on all vehicular movement on that particular day. Although the stray incident was confirmation of strong disgruntlement of the people against the protracted agitation, a similar agitation of laying siege on the national highways some years back that continued for over 100 days and created acute shortage of food items and petroleum products had shown that the state masses are resilient enough. Notwithstanding the people’s grit and determination to tolerate man-made hardships aimed at heightening ethnic tension and ultimately sow seeds of hatred amongst the indigenous communities, the situation merits constant assessment by the government and initiate effective measures to ensure that all transport agencies contribute their mite towards bailing out the people from the distressful situation. At the same time, the state authorities should not overlook the importance of starting NH-37 repair work during the working season, as the people have been depending on this route for their daily needs on account of the Imphal-Dimapur stretch of NH-2 technically remaining under the control of elements inimical to the interest of Manipur and its people.