From our Special Correspondent
IMPHAL, July 17: Imposition of indefinite blockade along the two National Highways 37 and 39, has been the most effective means to armstwist the non-performing government. It is not tribals in the hills alone who are making best use of the highways in this manner. Some non-tribal residents in the valley had tried to make their demands heard by resorting to blockades.
It is somewhat pathetic that the successive ministries in Manipur have not been able to convince the the Central Government on the imperative need to raise a highway protection force. Whenever the people flounder in protracted blockades and general strike the government is sandbagged forcing the sheepish Chief Minister to approach the central leaders. In all instances the central leaders had turned a deaf ear. One classic instance is how the Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had nothing to say or do during his visit in Imphal while the State was facing blockade for over 100 days.
When he rushed here people hoped that he would do something to end it. He went to Senapati district, met some Naga leaders and went back. As far he is concerned it is of consequence or interest that something was happening in Manipur. And yet the central leaders disapprove of the way some alienated youths harbour an anti-mainland attitude.
When Pranab Mukherjee was the Defence Minister he had come in Imphal. While talking to reporters he said that law and order is a State subject and as such they should use the police and paramilitary forces to bring the situation under control.
However, the hands of the police and paramilitary personnel are partially bound by the provisions of peace offers by the Central Government. Some high profile police officers had been in the soup as their activities were not to the likings of the central leaders. There had been many objectionable incidents in presence of the personnel along the highways.
The situation along these two highways is appalling and this kind of insurgency related activities are not heard in any of the National Highways. It has been seen the hard way being a mountainous road it is not possible to give cast iron safety to all the trucks and buses plying along the highways.
The feeble and faltering steps of the Manipur government in making attempts to raise a highway protection force are pathetic.In absence of such a force a handful of CRPF or IRB personnel are escorting the trucks and buses along the two highways. But most of the drivers are vulnerbale to the extortionists and other anti-social elements. But the centre is not taking proper note of the imperative need to raise such a force.
Apart from the presence of the extortionists of all hues the highways are impassable in the rainy days due to multiple landslides. Attempts are being made to construct rail lines in this State fraught with mountains. Perhaps the next two generations may have to wait patiently to see the first train to roll into Manipur.
Prices are the highest in Manipur. All commodities have to be brought by truck involving huge expenses. This is further aggravated by the unfettered extortions. And yet the economic exploitation is one of the ingredients of the burgeoning armed movement.