NC Hills stares at food crisis – Rail, truckers’ strike cripples district

Guwahati/Nagaon/Agartala, May 20: North Cachar Hills is facing a food crisis after an indefinite blockade call by a truckers’ association capped a six-day suspension of rail services, cutting off supply of essential items to the militancy-scarred district.

The Lanka Truck Owners’ Association and Lanka Truck Drivers’ Association today decided not to ply their vehicles in protest against the killing of 10 of their members last week by Jewel Gorlosa’s Dima Halam Daogah. The organisation had even called a 12-hour bandh today that passed off peacefully.

With train services suspended in the militant-infested stretch after DHD (J) rebels gunned down two railway employees on May 15, officials said Dispur swung into action following an SOS from the district that stocks were fast depleting and may last for another four days. They said requests have been made to the railways to resume services but there had been no response so far. The railways ferry most of the essential commodities like rice, pulses and fuel.

Officials said the government would regulate the movement of vehicles ferrying goods so that they could be provided with armed escorts. It has decided to install bullet-proof shields on goods trains to protect its drivers from militant attacks.

The Nagaon administration was also trying to persuade the Lanka truckers to lift their “economic blockade”, promising to pay Rs 3 lakh to the family of truckers killed on May 15, the Lanka Truck Drivers’ Association secretary, H. Das, said.

The government today sent a high-level team of ministers Rockybul Hussain and Khor Singh Engti, MP Biren Singh Engti and Congress MLA and general secretary Bhupen Bora to Haflong to take stock of the situation and submit a report to the chief minister.

The team today held discussions with the district administration, leading citizens and Congress workers. Tomorrow, the team will meet railway officials and request them to resume train services.

The government said it would also look into the ceasefire announced by the DHD (J). “But it would like the rebels to lay down arms and sever ties with the NSCN (I-M),” an official said.

The suspension of trains has adversely affected Mizoram, Tripura and the Barak Valley at a time when the states build up buffer food stocks in view of the monsoon when rail and road links through Assam and Meghalaya often get disrupted because of heavy rainfall, floods and landslides.

In order to stave off a possible food crisis, Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister Shivraj Patil and railway minister Lalu Prasad seeking their immediate intervention to ensure reopening of the suspended lines.

Official sources said the government of Assam has been separately requested in a letter to help restore rail link.

Tripura transport minister Manik Dey regretted that 75,000 metric tonnes of rice which the FCI has kept ready to despatch might go waste if train services remained suspended.

Source: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080521/jsp/northeast/story_9299059.jsp

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About Zou Sangnaupang Pawlpi Delhi

Zou Students' Association Delhi Branch
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