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Manipur fuel starved; schools, colleges closed

Iboyaima Laithangbam

Nothing is available in the State hit by an economic blockade

IMPHAL: All educational institutions in Manipur were closed indefinitely on Thursday as buses and vans transporting students suspended services for lack of fuel supply. Work in government offices and hospitals has also been disrupted as doctors and officials could not go there.

Virtually nothing is available in Manipur as the All-Naga Students Association of Manipur (ANSAM) has since June 20 clamped an economic blockade demanding the scrapping of the declaration of June 18 as a State integration day holiday.

Thousands of vehicles queued up along the roads leading to petrol pumps three days ahead of scheduled distribution. Rationing increased as the stock dwindled.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pheorijam Parijat told The Hindu that efforts were on to distribute fuel for school and college vehicles.

The Manipur Government has stopped bringing stranded oil tankers and trucks from Assam via Nagaland with armed escort. Following the blasting of a major bridge along National Highway 53 by militants on Wednesday, hundreds of oil tankers and trucks, which had gone to Assam, could not return to Imphal.

One person was killed and three persons fell into the turbulent Irung river in the impact of the blast on the bridge, which was completely destroyed. It is said the town commander of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah), in charge of Tamenglong district, was also killed.

The bridge will be reconstructed on a war-footing, a spokesperson of 25 Bn Border Road Task Force told this correspondent. A suspension bridge would be installed by July 24.

All bridges on NH 53 are being guarded.

In the wake of the blast, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi and Rajya Sabha member Rishang Keishing met on Wednesday. On Thursday, Lok Sabha member Mani Charanamei called on Mr. Ibobi. Mr. Ibobi has asked Naga leaders and non-governmental organisations to get the blockade lifted. For, there is a possibility of a communal fallout as Manipuris have become restive.

The ANSAM has informed the Government that it will participate in talks if Governor S.S. Sidhu meets its members. Mr. Ibobi has said he has no objection to this.

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