Imphal, July 4: Close on the heels of the exodus of senior doctors from the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, as many as 90 engineers and employees of the Manipur public works department today resigned in protest against the government’s alleged failure to protect them from militant groups.
The trigger for the unprecedented step by the PWD employees, led by chief engineer Ng Rastrapati, was the attack on one of their colleagues by unidentified gunmen on Friday. The assailants fired a bullet in the leg of R.K. Mobisana, an executive engineer posted in Thoubal, in front of his Imphal East residence.
The agitated employees walked up to the office of the principal secretary (PWD) at the state secretariat this afternoon and submitted their resignation letters.
“Such has been the pressure we are under that leave alone going to work sites, we were not even able to sleep peacefully at home. We thought it was better to resign than work in such a situation,” Rastrapati said after coming out of the principal secretary’s office.
Stunned by the development, the Okram Ibobi Singh government did not issue any statement on the mass resignations. The PWD minister and senior officials were unavailable for comment.
The police said efforts were being made to identify and trace the assailants behind the attack on the executive engineer. Engineers of the department held a meeting on Saturday to condemn the attack on their colleague and staged a demonstration at the office complex in Imphal from 3 pm to 5 pm.
The employees resumed their sit-in protest at the same complex at 10 am this morning. The demonstration continued until 4 pm.
A source in the department said more employees were planning to resign tomorrow. “We are facing threats and intimidation from armed groups and the government has not been able to provide security to us. How can we function in such a situation' This is too much,” he said.
The second spurt of resignations could include two additional engineers, seven superintending engineers and 33 executive engineers, the source said.
The PWD is not the only department targeted by armed groups. Three engineers of the public health engineering department were kidnapped a few months ago from Yairipok in Thoubal district.
They were freed unharmed after their colleagues ceased work, bringing all services, including water supply, to a halt.
In an unrelated development last night, the Ibobi government deputed a large contingent of forces, led by the India Reserve Battalion, to escort goods-laden trucks stranded along the Imphal-Dimapur road because of the highway blockade by a Naga student organisation.
An official source confirmed that 70 trucks were escorted safely to Imphal. Carrying petrol, diesel, LPG cylinders and rice, these vehicles had been stranded at Khujama, just across Manipur’s border with Nagaland, since the blockade began at midnight on June 19.
The government decided to send a contingent of forces to Mao Gate, on the border, after a ministerial team assessed the situation along the highway during their visit to Kohima a few days ago.