Drivers exposed to risk
THOUGH the economic blockade being imposed on the two lifelines is hurtling towards the three-month mark, there is hardly any change in the storyline as leaders of the Central and the state governments continue to spar over who should be held responsible for the hardships caused to the public and transport operators remain soft targets for invisible elements, who are hell-bent on creating animosity amongst the indigenous communities. While the state government, led by none other than chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, has been trying to neutralise scathing attacks being launched by BJP leaders, both during their visits to the blockade-hit Manipur as well as in public and political events held in other states, there is no tangible initiatives by those at the helm of affairs to shield the drivers from the lurking danger all along the inhospitable terrains of the national highways. That the transport workers feel unsafe while operating along the Imphal-Jiribam stretch of the National Highway-37 or are not at all satisfied with diligence of the security forces to counter the threats posed to the motor workers could be comprehended from the impromptu protest by the oil tanker drivers, who on Tuesday refused to off load the contents at the Malom depot of IOC. Even though the drivers’ contention that security forces escorting them along the route should have retaliated when unknown armed persons opened fire on the convoy of vehicles has the potential to create more turmoil in case civilians are caught in the cross-firing, safety of the goods suppliers should not be compromised under any circumstance.
Sadly, plight of the drivers are unlikely to be addressed any sooner as central and state leaders seem more inclined towards exposing chinks in the opponents’ armoury so as to gain the upper-hand in the run-up to the assembly elections. Moreover, rapidly changing political equation arising out of politicians shifting allegiance could be another factor for the policy makers to concentrate on enhancing profile of their respective organisations in order to draw public’s attention ahead of one of the most tantalisingly poised assembly polls. On account of the prevailing political scenario, the public demand for ending the siege of the highways too has apparently been put on the back-burner for political parties, Congress and BJP to be specific, are working hard to put their houses in order and presenting their projected candidates in a more palatable way. Without doubt, the important role being played by the drivers to bring in essential goods into the landlocked state despite all odds will not figure in the political circles, at-least for some days, as none of the political parties would like to loosen their grips on whatever gains, if any, they had made out of established and rookie politicians seeking to experiment with the new entities in pursuit of furthering their political careers, as unrestrained professionals in the drama-filled game of electoral politics. Unlike the politicians, who are at liberty to choose any organisation of his/her preference, economically underprivileged drivers have to either continue serving the people by risking their lives or take up more daunting task to eke out a living.