In response to the prolonged restriction of movement in Manipur, the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Manipur Chapter on Tuesday pressed for the immediate establishment of a Highway Protection Force emphasising that the Meetei community has been grappling with a disrupted lifeline, attributing the situation to aggression by Kuki militants.
General secretary of AITUC Manipur L Sotinkumar highlighted the dire consequences of Manipur being cut off from India’s surface transport network for nearly nine months wherein over 5,000 drivers and handymen are facing severe livelihood challenges.
Speaking at a media briefing held at Irawat Bhawan in Imphal, Sotinkumar emphasised the economic impact, with air travel being the sole means of transportation outside the state, resulting in significantly higher costs compared to road travel.
He dismissed makeshift security measures on the highway as inadequate and asserted that a Highway Protection Force is essential for safeguarding lives and properties.
AITUC team’s recent visit to the national capital included submitting memorandums to the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister, urging the establishment of a dedicated force to address highway crimes.
Despite the Home Ministry indicating that the decision lies with the state Assembly or cabinet, Sotinkumar stressed the need for strong pressure from the state of the Centre.
In the absence of progress, AITUC announced a mass movement starting February 16, joined by the Central Trade Union.
Addressing recent revelations of de-facto imposition of Article 355 in Manipur by CM Biren to delegates of 10 political parties, he questioned, “Why is the CM not facing the situation bravely through constitutional means?”
He expressed concerns about the escalating violence and accused central forces of acting in a partisan manner, allegedly favoring Kuki militants and terrorising village volunteers who are guarding their villagers from Kuki aggression.
Sotinkumar also criticised the ineffectiveness of security advisor Kuldiep Singh, the chairman of Unified Command, in controlling the volatile situation.
In this regard, the AITUC urged both the central and state governments to seek a political solution before the crisis worsens.
During their visit to the national capital, the AITUC team staged a one-day hunger-strike protest at Deer Park Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi, drawing attention to their demands for a Highway Protection Force and condemning the perceived negligence of the BJP-led government in addressing the ongoing Manipur crisis.