Monday, November 29, 1999

Manipur crisis lingers, government says goods to move Saturday

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New Delhi/Imphal, June 16 (IANS) The government Wednesday said the first convoy of goods to Manipur is expected to move Saturday, as a blockade of roads into the northeastern state by Naga tribal groups continued despite a decision to send in forces and a section of Naga students calling it off.Home Secretary G.K. Pillai Wednesday evening met officials from Nagaland and Manipur in Delhi to decide steps, including using forces, to clear the blockade of two key highways linking Manipur with the rest of the country.'The government of India is committed to keeping the (National Highway) NH 39 and NH 53 open. The first convoy of goods for Manipur, as informed by the state government, is expected to move to Imphal Saturday,' an official spokesperson said after Pillai met officials from the two states.Pillai had a detailed meeting with Manipur Chief Secretary D.S. Poonia and additional chief secretaries of Nagaland, A. Jamir and Toshi Aier, on issues relating to movement of vehicles through the blocked roadlinks.They took note of the Naga Students Federation withdrawing the economic blockade and the Guwahati High Court ordering the central and state governments to keep the roads free of all obstructions.'They reiterated the importance of keeping the highways open for movement of goods and people. The permanent arrangement of National Highway Protection Force for protecting and keeping open (the road) will also be put in place,' the spokesperson said.The more than two-month-old blockade of roads has led to severe shortage of food, medicines and virtually everything in Manipur. The landlocked state depends on supplies from outside the region with trucks from the rest of India carrying essentials passing through Nagaland.Hopes for an end to the crisis rose Tuesday when the Naga Students' Federation said it had decided to end the protests after a meeting with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.But there's very little relief for the people as the movement of trucks carrying food and other essentials on the highway leading into Manipur is yet to start.Some splinter Naga groups said they will continue with the blockade to protest against Manipur's decision preventing Naga leader Thuingaleng Muivah from visiting his birthplace in Manipur. They are also demanding that the government cancel the arrest warrants issued for two of their leaders.Trucks carrying essentials to the state were yet to roll into the state as a Manipur government spokesperson and senior minister N. Biren Singh told IANS that 'it might take a couple of more days for trucks to ply normally on the highway'.Some 20 companies (estimated 2,000 personnel) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Border Security Force (BSF), posted in various places in Manipur, have now been deployed along National Highways 39 and 53 to escort trucks into the state.'Modalities about troop deployment along the highways are being worked out,' the minister said.

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