The ethnic violence that broke out in Manipur three weeks ago, claiming the lives of 70 people, has caused prices of essential commodities to shoot up sky-high, adding to the woes of the locals. The prices of essential commodities such as rice, potato, onion, eggs, LPG cylinders, and petrol have skyrocketed and are being sold well above the government-set rates.
Charubala Heikrujam, a resident of Imphal Kwakeithel Bazar, told The Federal that she had to fork out ₹1,800 to buy a gas cylinder on Thursday (May 25).
In a telephonic interview, the Imphal-based school teacher said that she had to procure the cylinder from the black market, as the regular gas agency claimed to have run out of stock.
“I should consider myself lucky to get the cylinder. There is no guarantee of getting it even if one is willing to pay more. There is scarcity of everything in Imphal except for meats and vegetables, which are locally procured,” she added. Even petrol is sold for ₹160-170 per litres in most parts of the state.
“Price of a 50-kg bag of fine quality rice has jumped from ₹900 to ₹1700-1800. We are paying at least ₹30-40 extra against a kilogram of potatoes or onions. Similarly, a crate of eggs (30 pieces), which used to cost maximum ₹190 is now costing ₹300,” she added. Potatoes are costing nearly ₹100 per kilo.
Prices of tobacco products too have gone up, said some residents.
Also read: Fresh violence in strife-torn Manipur, one killed
This significant hike in goods especially that come from outside the state has been due to the disruption caused by the blockades on the highways.
National Highway 2, which happens to be the main lifeline of Manipur, has been blocked leading to a severe shortage of essential commodities and medicines. Black marketers are having a field day cashing in on the situation and hawking goods at double the normal price. Mostly, the essential commodities brought from outside the state have gone up.
According to the residents, if it was not for the security forces escorting the trucks carrying essential commodities, the price rise would have been more.
Truck are unable to enter the Imphal Valley due to roadblocks and fear among transporters due the violence clashes that broke out between the Meiteis and Kukis. This was triggered after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was conducted in the hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status.
As essential supplies dwindled, the authorities decided to bring in the trucks via NH 37. The movement of the trucks on NH 37 commenced on May 15 with the security forces trying to restore normalcy.
Also read: Manipur: Ethnic divide widens with tribal groups sticking to their stands
Violence-free districts too affected
The hill districts which did not witness any violence too are grappling with the price hike.
Rebecca Gangmei, 41, who runs a grocery shop and an eatery in Tamenglong district headquarters, said that cost of essential items, particularly rice, went up though there has been no violence in her district. “Only the prices of meat have not seen much changes as it is not imported and taken from locals,” she said.
Pamchuila Kashung, a government college assistant professor in Ukhrul district, is lucky that she lives near Nagaland from where essential items come into the state. However, even then the cost of some items, particularly rice, have increased, she said.
The state government has issued a list of revised wholesale and retail prices of as many as 18 food items days after the violence broke out.
Possible shortage of life-saving drugs
Meanwhile, the Manipur Chemist and Druggist Association (MCDA) in a letter to the state government said that there is likely to be a shortage of life-saving drugs in the state if the supply line is not maintained.
The association also appealed to the protestors not to disrupt or damage trucks ferrying medicines on humanitarian grounds.
Though the violence in Manipur began on May 3, it was preceded by tension over the eviction of Kuki villagers from reserve forest land, which had led to a series of smaller agitations.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — Nagas and Kukis — constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
The ethnic clashes claimed over 70 lives and some 10,000 army and para-military personnel had to be deployed to restore normalcy in the northeastern state.
(With inputs from agencies)