Mizoram feels the pinch after Assam blocks COVID essentials, fuel trucks

Assam has officially denied any blockade, but several non-state actors have been disrupting truck movement at the entry point of Mizoram

The Mizoram government is now trying to procure oil, cooking gas, rice and other items from Tripura and Manipur

The ongoing border standoff with Assam is affecting the Mizoram government’s mass COVID testing drive amid a spike in infections. The supply of essential commodities has also been cut off with Assam going ahead with an “unofficial economic blockade”.

At least 60 trucks carrying LPG, diesel, fuel and other essential items have also been stranded.

Mizoram-bound trucks carrying around two lakh rapid antigen kits were stranded due to an “indefinite economic blockade” enforced by several civil organisations of Assam after the July 26 gunfight between the police forces of the two states. Five Assam police personnel and a civilian were killed and over 40 were injured in the clash.

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Sources said apart from vehicles carrying test kits, two trucks and a pick-up van carrying oxygen concentrators were also stranded on National Highway-306, considered the lifeline of Mizoram.

Also read: COVID wreaks havoc: Assam’s poor barter kidneys for cash

Several non-state actors from Assam are continuing with their blockade at the entry point of Mizoram which is Lailapur in Cachar district, the epicentre of Monday’s clash even three days after the Mizoram government sought Centre’s intervention to intervene.

“The National Highway-306 is the main link for the flow of essential commodities and supplies into the state and that the blockade is affecting the livelihood of Mizos, that too during the pandemic time,” said Mizoram home secretary Lalbiaksangi in a letter to Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla on July 28.

The Assam government, however, insists there is no blockade.

Cachar district superintendent of police Ramandeep Kaur said truckers, vehicle owners, drivers and food-grain merchants have stopped vehicular movement to Mizoram, fearing safety.

Mizoram Chemists and Druggists Association (MCDA) has accused the Assam government of instructing transporters not to book any consignment meant for Mizoram on the pretext of security concerns. MCDA general secretary L H Sailo claimed the instruction, verbally, was given to transporters dissuading them to send goods to Mizoram on Thursday.

Amidst claims and counterclaims, officials said if the state did not get the fresh consignment of test kits in two days, the Covid screening drive would be in severe trouble.

“In many localities at Aizawl Municipal Corporation, a mass Covid-19 testing is on. The screening process will be hampered if rapid antigen testing kits do not reach us immediately,” a source said.

Sailo nods in agreement. “Even life-saving drugs are being stopped by Assam amid the pandemic. This would lead to a dire situation in our state, with far-reaching ramifications and consequences,” he said.

Mizoram is among the 10 states where the Covid-19 situation is alarming, according to the Centre. The total lockdown in the state was extended for another seven days on Saturday (July 31) after it recorded 893 positive cases with a positivity rate of 9.29 per cent.

Officials in Mizoram said the state’s effort to increase testing through mass screening is now in jeopardy due to the non-cooperation of the Assam government in lifting the “economic blockade”.

According to sources, about 60 trucks carrying LPG, diesel, fuel and other essential items have also been stranded.

Explained: Assam & Mizoram’s 100-yr-old border tussle

Since railway tracks have been damaged by miscreants in Hailakandi district of Assam, 21 wagons carrying rice bags to Mizoram have also been stuck.

Meanwhile, the Mizoram government is trying to procure oil, cooking gas, rice and other items from Tripura and Manipur, said state’s Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister K. Lalrinliana.

Getting goods through Manipur and Tripura would lead to a huge price rise as the transportation cost of bringing goods through these longer routes would almost double, if not more, said Lalbiaksanga, an Aizawl-based trader.

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