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60-hour Arunachal bandh off

Itanagar, July 24: The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union today suspended its proposed 60-hour bandh from August 11, following a five-hour meeting with chief minister Nabam Tuki last night.

General secretary of the union, Biru Nasi, told reporters here today that the union’s central executive members were invited by the chief minister’s office for a “round-table meeting” with Tuki along with a few Congress MLAs, including home minister Tanga Byaling.

The union had declared the bandh on July 19 after a 12-hour Itanagar strike last month and a statewide 36-hour bandh earlier this month against the government’s failure to fulfil its demands.

The demands include increase and early release of stipends of students, release of salaries of government employees, a white paper on state finances, scheduling of a “public darshan day” at the chief minister’s office, regular electricity and water supply in Itanagar and Naharlagun and proper maintenance of roads in the state capital.

Union members were informed last night that Rs 5 crore has already been released to pay pending stipends and they would be enhanced. In addition to the above demands, the chief minister also said that Rs 75 crore would be released to clear the outstanding salaries of government employees.

To address the capital’s power needs, a powerhouse built at an estimated cost of Rs 13 crore to receive direct transmission from the Neepco hydel power project, will begin operation “within three-four months”. Further, funds to restore water supply pipelines, which were damaged during the recent showers, will be released soon.

The white paper on state finances will be placed during the budget session beginning from tomorrow, the chief minister said.

While the union made headway in several key issues it had raised, it appears that commuters in the state capital will have to wait longer for smoother rides since a Rs 40 crore tender floated last year by the government to maintain roads in Itanagar has not been executed owing to certain technical complications.

Among its list of demands, the union has been seeking an end to political appointments of chairpersons to head government committees and various other political appointments.

The union said the chief minister will review the work of all statutory bodies and those, which do not have constitutional or legal sanction, will be removed or eradicated immediately.

Nasi said they would resume their protest if the government fails to fulfil its demands within two months.

Sources in the chief minister’s office said Tuki agreed to meet with the union members after initially refusing to talk to them since “there was no option left” and the government “has to try all options to provide peace and security to citizens”.