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Ibobi mulls alternative supply route for fuel
A national highway blocked with huge trees in Senapati district on Saturday. Picture by Eastern Projections

Imphal, May 9: A severe fuel crisis, triggered by the ongoing blockade on Imphal-Kohima Highway, is threatening to bring life to a grinding halt in Manipur, prompting the government to consider alternative supply routes.

Naga people have been blocking the state’s main supply link since May 5 to protest chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s refusal to allow Thuingaleng Muivah, the leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), and the crackdown that killed two students, choking the flow of essential commodities.

While the state is in a position to handle the foodgrain crisis, shortage of fuel has prompted the government to consider bringing in supplies through the Imphal-Jiribam highway in the next few days.

“We have asked the transporters stranded outside the state to head towards Jiribam along National Highway 53. Once the trucks gather at Jiribam we will bring them in using security escorts,” government spokesman N. Biren Singh said.

The army has been asked to reopen the Imphal-Kohima highway, he said.

Food and civil supplies minister Y. Erabot Singh confirmed the plan to use Imphal-Jiribam Road as the supply route till normality was restored along the Imphal-Kohima highway. “Within a week’s time there will be normal supply,” Erabot Singh said.

While the government considers its options, petrol pumps began closing down.

The government stopped supply to retail outlets three days ago as stocks at the government depot in Imphal began depleting. The stock with the government today was 567 kilolitres of petrol and 1,611 kilolitres of diesel.

“The stock is reserved for security forces, government departments and for emergency use,” Erabot Singh said.

The non-availability of diesel and petrol put several state buses, trucks and taxis off the roads. Many of the school vans also suspended services and more are expected to follow suit tomorrow.

A desperate few, like Prof M.C. Arun of Manipur University, chose to bring out his college days’ bicycle from the family storeroom and get it repaired for Rs 400.

He will cycle to the university at Canchipur in Imphal West, 7km from his home at Wangkhei tomorrow.

“My petrol stock ran out on Friday. I could not procure even a litre. So I will go to the university tomorrow on my bicycle, which I used in the late seventies. MA, MSc and MCom exams are scheduled for mid-June. So I will have to attend university anyhow,” Arun, a professor of the anthropology department, said.

While RIMS will stop routine operations from tomorrow for shortage of oxygen, Shija Hospital, the largest private hospital in Imphal, stopped taking emergency cases today. RIMS has sought petrol from the government.

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