Monday, November 29, 1999

First convoy of trucks to ply to Manipur on Saturday: govt

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New Delhi, June 16 (PTI) The government today said it is committed to ensure free movement of traffic through the highways connecting Manipur and the first convoy of trucks will ply on Saturday. "The first convoy of goods for Manipur, as informed by the state government, is expected to move to Imphal on Saturday," the Home Ministry said in a statement after Home Secretary G K Pillai held a meeting with top officials of Nagaland and Manipur governments. The Ministry said the central government was committed to keep open the NH 39 and NH 53 -- the life line of Manipur which were blocked by agitating Naga groups for over two months. "The permanent arrangement of National Highway Protection Force for protecting and keeping open NH-39 would also be put in place," the statement said. The personnel of the force would be drawn from paramilitary forces. Pillai discussed with Manipur Chief Secretary D S Poonia and additional chief secretaries of Nagaland A Jamir and Toshi Aier issues relating to movement of vehicles through NH-39 and NH-53. "There is no blockade in Nagaland. Road is open and the problem is only in Naga areas in Manipur where the Naga students of Manipur have blocked it. We are trying to use good offices of Naga Students Federation and Naga Hoho to persuade All Naga Students Association of Manipur (ANSAM) to withdraw the blockade," Jamir told reporters after the meeting. The Ministry statement said the meeting took note of fact that the NSF had withdrawn the economic blockade in Nagaland from 6 pm yesterday. "It also took note of the Guwahati High Court''s order to the central government and the state governments of Nagaland and Manipur that NH-39 and NH-53 be kept free from all obstructions. All sides reiterated the importance of keeping the national highways open for movement of goods and people," it said. The economic blockade has pushed Manipur on the verge of a breakdown with stocks of all essentials commodities, including baby food and life saving drugs, almost drying up. ANSAM had launched the blockade in April to protest the holding of elections to six autonomous district councils in the Hills which, it alleged, were given not enough power to carry out development work. The blockade of National Highway 39 (Imphal-Dimapur) and 53 (Imphal-Silchar), passing through Nagaland and connecting Manipur, was intensified after Manipur refused entry to NSCN-IM general secretary T Muivah on May 3 to visit his ancestral home there.

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