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Fuel queues for blockade

Imphal, Feb. 22: Panic buying of fuel triggered long queues in front of fuel outlets particularly in and around Imphal city, three days ahead of an indefinite blockade called by Kuki State Demand Committee on all roads passing through Kuki areas.

The blockade is likely to stop movement of essential items as well as snap road communication between Imphal and the district headquarters in the hills.

In anticipation of the likely fuel shortage during the blockade, owners of cars and two-wheelers were seen lining up before petrol pumps in Imphal city and officials admitted there was panic buying.

“Whenever there is a blockade, supply of petrol is hit. I had to buy a litre of petrol at Rs 100 per litre. I had no option but stand in the queue to purchase the fuel ahead of the blockade,” Aheibam Maniratan, a government employee, said.

Customers said within two days of any blockade, petrol pumps shut down and blackmarketeers have a field day charging exorbitant prices.

The two-day shutdown on Wednesday and yesterday owing to the all-India strike called by trade unions has made matters worse. “The queues today are partly because of the closure of fuel outlets for two days because of the strike,” a petrol pump owner said.

The committee also announced today it would not allow the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar car rally to pass through Kuki areas in the state.

The rally will start from Calcutta today and end at Kunming in China after covering 3,000km. The cars are expected to enter Manipur either on February 26 or 27 and pass through many Kuki areas.

Cars will enter Jiribam in Manipur from Silchar in Assam and cross over to Tamu in Myanmar after going through Imphal.

Officials of the civil supplies department said panic buying by vehicle owners on the eve of and during blockades leads to fuel scarcity. The department appealed to consumers not to resort to panic buying, as there was enough stock of petrol and diesel.

The demand committee initially called the blockade from January 24 midnight demanding talks on the demand for a Kuki state with the Centre, the state government and Kuki militant groups who have signed the suspension of operation agreement. The committee suspended its blockade on January 27 after the Centre promised to initiate talks by the second week of February. However, they announced resumption of the blockade on February 19 on all state and national highways, including the Imphal-Jiribam and Imphal-Dimapur highways, which serve as supply lines, to protest the failure of the Centre to start the dialogue process.