60-day blockade brings Manipur to its knees

IMPHAL, Oct 4 (IANS): A litre of petrol at Rs.200 in the black market and a cooking gas cylinder for Rs.1,500 or more... After two months of a blockade inManipur, world boxing champion Mary Kom says she's at her wits' end trying to balance training for the Olympics with the slow process of cooking with firewood.
"Cooking food using firewood eats up a lot of time and hence lifeis becoming very tough. Cooking gas cylinders are not available due to the ongoing economic blockade. I am forced to burn firewood in the kitchen," the mother of twin boys told IANS.
"My preparations are also getting affected."
The five-time world women boxing champion from the northeastern state is only one amongst the many thousands trying to cope with the blockade, which has not only driven up the cost of commodities but brought the state virtually to its knees. Hospitals have put on hold all routine surgeries due to non-availability of oxygen cylinders while stocks of essentials, baby food and life saving drugs have almost dried up.
The blockade on the two national highways, the main lifelines linking Manipur with the rest of India, is a result of a bitter rivalry between two tribal groups over creation of new district in the region.
The Kukis are demanding a separate Sadar Hills district while the Nagas are refusing to give up their land for it.
Hundreds of trucks carrying essentials and medicines have been stuck in the adjoining states of Nagaland and Assam with protesters laying siege to the two highways.
"A litre of petrol is selling at Rs.200 in the black, a cooking gas cylinder for Rs.1,500 or more while a kilogram of rice is selling at Rs.60 to Rs.70," said Sunil Singh, an Imphal resident.
"Life has become difficult for people in Manipur. Supplies of essentials, fuel, gas cylinders are becoming scarce and unscrupulous traders are having afield day charging exorbitant rates," said Basanta Singh, another resident.
Landlocked Manipur depends on supplies from outside the region. Trucks from the rest of India carrying essentials pass through Nagaland.
"The blockade has resulted in acute shortage of food, medicine and other essential commodities; very soon, the entire life support system in the state will collapse,' said T. Singh, a rights activist.
The Manipur government has been reduced to a mere spectator,unable to break the deadlock despite five rounds of talks between the warring tribal groups.
"We are trying our best to resolve the crisis," a government spokesperson said.

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