As we said time and again, whenever someone or some group imposes a blockade on the national highways, particularly Imphal-Dimapur Road and Imphal-Jiribam Road, everyone feels the pinch of scarcity of food and essential commodities. Some groups in the hills think that by imposing blockade on the highway, it is only the valley which suffers. This is simply not true.
And we thought, Kuki CSOs have begun to understand the actual dynamics of an economic blockade as they start to feel the pinch. But, it had been forgotten so quickly again, as they began the blockade again. The situation is even dire in the hill areas which depend on supply lines from the commercial hub based in Imphal. No one tries to understand how the supply lines work inside the state while they only look at how one could take advantage of the national highways.
The Imphal-Dimapur road (NH 2) and Imphal-Jiribam road (NH 37) have always been a rallying point for politics by certain communities doting both sides of the national highways and a pressure point for raising of all kinds of demands and grievances. The other two national highways seldom come in the limelight.
Manipur being a land-locked state highly depends on the highways for ferrying in food and all other goods, including essential items from outside the state, which is exactly why highway blockades have become a bargaining chip for groups who have an axe to grind with the state authorities or holding it to ransom for realisation of their demands howsoever petty it be sometimes.
Well, now, as the railway line has reached Khongsang in Tamenglong district and goods trains filled with essential commodities have begun to arrive twice a week at Khongsang. From there, the goods are transported to Imphal and it again gets distributed in the hill districts. Having said this, one needs to understand that Imphal is the axis from which the big traders and wholesalers mostly non-Manipuris operate and that the goods and essential items reaching Imphal again finds its way in the districts. That is how the distribution network goes in the state.
It so happened that due to frequent bandhs and blockades the godowns of many big traders and wholesalers have moved to Senapati district headquarters. But again, the non-Manipuri moneyman or big-time wholesalers are still based in Imphal. For them, it is pure business where sentiments and political aspirations have little play.
In the days of indefinite bandhs and economic blockades on the highways of Manipur, when groups of all hue used to resort to such tactics even at the drop of a hat. While the general population had to face immense hardships and suffer, prices of essential items spiral away to the sky as hoarders reap profit. If the common folk in the valley suffer so much, what would be the condition in the hills which practically depends on the supply lines from the valley.
As the attacks on the Meitei villages in the foothills by armed Kuki militants continue, angry womenfolk have come out in the streets, resorting to blockade of trucks carrying food and essential items on the highways. Now again, as Kukis start dying in the raging clashes, the blockades have started.
Gone are the cries of scarcity of food and essentials, including medicines. For those staying in the relief camps, the state government machinery is at least providing them with food and essential items. But, the common people in the villages are suffering and politics does not fill the stomach.
Life has become extremely difficult both in the hills and the valley. And, we earnestly feel that politics should not come in matters of food and essential supplies. In spite of the prevailing tension, both sides need to find a way to ensure free flow of food, essential commodities and medicines to the distribution hub in Imphal and to the districts.
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