“Centre keen on ensuring free movement of goods”

The Centre on Wednesday said it was committed to ensuring free movement through the national highways connecting Manipur.

“The first convoy of goods for Manipur, as informed by the Manipur government, is expected to move to Imphal on Saturday,'' the official spokesperson of the Home Ministry said in a statement.

Home Secretary G.K. Pillai held a meeting with top officials of the Nagaland and Manipur governments to discuss issues relating to movement of vehicles through NH 39 and NH 53.

The Home Ministry said the Union government was committed to keeping open both highways, which remain the lifeline of Manipur and have been blocked by agitating Naga groups for over two months now.

Permanent arrangement

“The permanent arrangement of the National Highway Protection Force for protecting and keeping open NH-39 would also be put in place,'' the statement said. The personnel of the force would be drawn from paramilitary forces.

Mr. Pillai discussed with Manipur Chief Secretary D.S. Poonia and Additional Chief Secretaries of Nagaland A. Jamir and Toshi Aier the issue of blockade.

“There is no blockade in Nagaland. The road is open and the problem is only in Naga areas in Manipur where the Naga students of Manipur have blocked it. We are trying to use the good offices of the Naga Students Federation (NSF) and Naga Hoho to persuade the All Naga Students Association of Manipur (ANSAM) to withdraw the blockade,'' Mr. Jamir told reporters after the meeting.

The meeting took note of the fact that the NSF had withdrawn the blockade in Nagaland from 6 p.m. on Tuesday. “It also took note of the Guwahati High Court's order to the Central government and the governments of Nagaland and Manipur that NH 39 and NH 53 be kept free from all obstructions. All sides reiterated the importance of keeping the national highways open for movement of goods and people,'' it said.

The blockade has pushed Manipur to the verge of a breakdown with stocks of all essentials commodities, including food and life-saving drugs, almost drying up.

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