By Yambem Laba
Even as chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, serving his third term is angry over the Planning Commission granting an allocation of only Rs 3,560 crores against the expected Rs 4,000 crore — only a 4.2 per cent increase from last year — the people are unwilling to listen to his lamentation for the simple reason that their first priority is to locate a petrol pump and join in long queues to fill up their vehicles at Rs 160 a litre. All this despite the assurance by the consumer affairs and public distribution minister and government spokesman Moirangthem Oken that all was well in the state and that there was enough stock to last for another 10 days and that adequate security would be provided to oil tankers bringing oil and LPG gas via National Highway No 39 which passes trough Nagaland.
The present crisis follows the indefinite bandh called by Zeliangrong organisations demanding the release of a 16-year-old schoolgirl, Alice Kamei, who is said to have joined the the proscribed valley-based Revolutionary People’s Front on her own. The latter has made it known to the public that she “joined of her own volition” and was very much in their camp somewhere across the border. But various civil organizations say that as per international conventions, a 16-year-old could at best be described as a child soldier and have asked for her safe release.
But what actually triggered the oil shortage was the abduction of an oil tanker driver, Sougrakpam Surjit Singh, from Kohima while en route to Imphal as part of a convoy being escorted by the 78 Battalion CRPF from Khatkhati in Assam to Khuzama in Nagaland and thereafter by the 69 Battalion CRPF from Khuzuma to Imphal.He was waylaid in Kohima and taken into custody by an uderground Naga group as a forewarning to all oil tankers to pay Rs 10,000 per trip to their organisation.The All Manipur Petroleum Tankers’ and Drivers’ Union went on a wildcat strike. But when the driver returned home safely after two days, they suspended their agitation.
Amidst all this, the people have started reeling under another hardship — an acute shortage of potable drinking water. Piped water is now being supplied only once a week. Following this, people have started purchasing drinking water from private water carriers who sell 1,000 litres for anything between Rs 250-300. The inhabitants of the Langthabal area have stopped private water carriers from collecting water from the Canchipur water treatment plant located on the Manipur University campus.The latter has since then stopped. But this is just a symptomatic development of a larger malaise, according to an observer.
Meanwhile, the power crisis continues to plague Manipur. The power department is not able to supply for more than six hours a day and that, too, every day from 9-11 a.m, 3-5 p.m and 10-12 p.m, when people have the least use for it. Anyway, the citizens have started working their daily schedules in accordance with the power supply timings.
The department says the erratic supply is because of non-payment of bills by consumers in time but critics point out that this will not happen if the supplies were regular.
All said and done, Manipur appears to be resemble a failed state where nobody knows what is happening with the policies and programs of the government. And with both the Manipur State Human Rights Commission and the State Right to Information Commission having been defunct for years, there is no hope of the people’s grievances being heard or addressed.
With Ibobi Singh not tolerating any criticism against him and his administration, there is little sign that these statutory bodies will be revived in a hurry. While Narendra Modi in Gujarat is receiving national flak, there is little chance of Ibobi Singh being touched in a domain where he rules supreme.
(Yambem Laba is Special Correspondent of The Statesman. Article courtesy: The Statesman)