Opposition parties Friday demanded imposition of President's Rule in Manipur where a 75-day-long highway blockade has made the prices of essentials shoot up two to four times.
"The chief minister, before leaving for New Delhi, urged the agitators to withdraw the blockade that began Aug 1. But the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) refused to call off the blockade reiterating their demand that the district should be created first," a government official told reporters in Imphal.
SHDDC began the indefinite road blockade agitation on the two crucial national highways, which link the northeastern state with the rest of the country, demanding the upgrading Sadar Hills sub-division in the Naga-dominated Senapati district in northern Manipur into a full-fledged district.
The United Naga Council (UNC), the apex body of Nagas in Manipur, has also been organising a counter road blockade in all Naga-inhabited areas in northern Manipur, demanding that these areas should not be carved out without their consent.
Manipuris living in Tripura and Assam have also demanded the lifting of the blockade.
The main opposition Manipur Peoples Party (MPP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and several other parties Friday reiterated their demand for President's Rule in Manipur to normalise the situation.
The parties have been organising sit-ins in Manipur capital Imphal, demanding immediate withdrawal of the economic blockade.
"Party leaders met Governor Gurbachan Jagat several times seeking his intervention to get the blockade lifted in view of the suffering of people. But the governor failed to give a positive response. He has remained silent on the crucial situation," MPP president Nimaichand Luwang said.
BJP has sent a letter to the prime minister and union home minister to dismiss the Congress-led government in Manipur to end the unprecedented distress of people in the state.
Political parties and civil society organisations have also accused the central government of not doing much to help open the national highways to restore supplies of food grain and essentials from outside.
Manipur depends on supplies from outside and trucks carrying essentials and other goods from the rest of India use the national highways (NH 53, NH 37 NH 39) passing through Nagaland and Assam.
Blockade supporters have since also torched at least 30 Imphal-bound trucks, including two carrying medicines, at Nungkao village in the hill district of Tamenlong, 215 km west of Imphal, a food department official said.
The torched vehicles were part of a convoy of about 1,000 trucks, which were being escorted by Manipur State Rifles troopers from Jiribam to Imphal.
Government spokesman and minister N. Biren Singh has admitted that the blockades have created a severe shortage of essential commodities, including diesel and petrol.
People have to wait in long queues in front of petrol pumps, sometimes for an entire day, to buy a few litres of fuel.
Currently, a kilogram of potato costs Rs.40 to Rs.50 in the market while a kilogram of onions is Rs.60 to Rs.70. Prices of other essential commodities have also shot up to double, triple and four times value as the blockade of key highways continued.
Singh told reporters that the government was trying to move essentials and fuel through trucks with security escorts.
"Over 1,000 trucks loaded with essentials and oil tankers are on way to Imphal," the minister added.
Official sources said the state cabinet headed by Singh had met four to five times in the past two-and-a-half months, but no conclusive decision could be taken on the Sadar Hills issue, which has remained unresolved since 1982.