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Strike halts rice distribution

Imphal, July 7: The consumer affairs, food and public distribution department suspended the supply of rice from its godowns to the districts from today, after all the handling labourers struck work indefinitely, demanding better wages.

Trucks that had come to collect and unload rice at the godowns, could not enter the complex, as the demonstrating labourers blocked the entry to the godowns at Sangaiprou of Imphal West, nearly 4km from here.

The loaded and empty trucks could be seen lined up along the road leading to the complex.

The labourers, numbering 61, under the banner of CAF and PD Labourers’ Welfare Association, are demanding the same wages given to their counterparts at the Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns close by.

The labourers at the FCI godowns are paid Rs 3.5 per bag of rice both for loading and unloading while those at the state godowns are given Rs 0.38 per bag.

The strikers, however, allowed officials of the department to enter their offices.

The contractors launched the strike after repeated memoranda and requests to the chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh and the consumer affairs, food and public distribution department minister Moirangthem Okendro to hike wages went unheeded.

“We submitted a memorandum to the chief minister on December 15 last year. The chief minister visited the godowns in March this year. When we raised the issue the chief minister assured us of a wage hike. Okendro also promised us that he would hike the wages on or before July 5 (Saturday). However, no step has been taken to fulfil our demand,” the general secretary of the association, Romendrajit Moirangcha, said.

He said the strike would continue indefinitely until the wages were hiked. The labourers are also demanding payment of their wages pending since March this year.

On an average, the labourers unloaded 10 trucks of rice and loaded 10 trucks of rice in a day. The godown has four sheds.

“We know that our strike will make the poor people suffer. But we have no other alternative than stopping work as we are increasingly finding it difficult to feed our families. We will not withdraw the strike until our demands are met,” Romendrajit said.

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