The Telegraph
Thursday , May 8 , 2014
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Workers’ strike stalls border road

- Moreh residents mull demanding new team if standoff continues

Imphal, May 7: A ceasework by labourers of 82 Road Construction Company under the 25 Border Roads Tasks Force (BRTF) over better working conditions has stalled the construction of a new road along the border with Myanmar for over a month.

Construction of a 167km-long road from the border trade town of Moreh to New Somtal, both in Chandel district, has been suspended since April 1 after more than 200 labourers went on a strike.

The work has stopped after the labourers cut through a hilly area for construction of the road for 16km and blacktopping 4km of the road surface.

The labourers under the banner of Labour Union of 82 RCC have been demanding an increase in wages, payment of wages on or before the 30th of every month, free medical treatment for workers injured on duty and payment of compensation, among other demands.

The BRTF started the construction in October 2008 under a central scheme for development of the border areas. The construction of the road is important for both India and Myanmar, which conduct border trade through Manipur’s Moreh and Myanmar’s Tamu.

The Centre cleared the project as the road could open new opportunities for both the countries in terms of trade and coordination of border security activities to check trans-border smuggling of arms and drugs and movement of militants.

Official sources said militants camping in neighbouring Myanmar frequently sneak into Manipur.

To check the movement of militants, the Centre decided to construct the border road, sources said.

People residing along the Manipur side of the border also hope the new road could enhance their economic activities by easy transportation of goods for the market at Moreh.

Seithong Haokip, president of the labour union, said BRTF authorities were insensitive to the plights of the labourers. “We will not resume work until our demands are met,” he said.

As the standoff continues, community leaders of Moreh cautioned the BRTF authorities to resolve the strike without any delay or face public ire.

Community leaders yesterday held a meeting at Moreh to discuss the labourers’ strike and suspension of work.

Leaders of Meitei Council, Moreh, the All Community Development Organisation, Moreh, Kuki Chiefs’ Association, Moreh block and leaders of the union, attended the meeting.

Thangkholen Haokip, vice-president of the Kuki Chiefs’ Association warned if the strike was not resolved immediately, the people would demand a new BRTF team for construction.