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Does Centre consider Manipur part of India, asks BJP

Friday 5 August 2005

Pioneer News Service/ New Delhi

Causing acute embarrassment to the Congress-led UPA Government, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil on Thursday forced a brief adjournment of the Lok Sabha on being absent from the House at a time when he had to respond to a Calling Attention Motion by BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra on the 45-day-long economic blockade of Manipur.

Mr Patil, himself a former Lok Sabha Speaker, in turn, ended up getting a stern reprimand from Speaker Somnath Chaterjee, and had to profusely apologise to the House for his absence.

Raising the motion on Manipur situation, Mr Malhotra accused the Centre of treating the economic blockade of the State in a casual manner, as reflected by the minister’s absence, and demanded imposition of President rule in the state.

Accusing the State Government of giving the militant outfit there a fortnight’s time to organise the blockade, Mr Malhotra said that the state had been observing ’Integrity Day’ every year on June 18, which always passed off peacefully. But by announcing this on June 4 itself, the state government gave the insurgents a full fortnight to organise the blockade.

Lamenting that neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Minister had bothered to visit the state during its ongoing blockade, Mr Malhotra wondered if the Centre at all considered Manipur as part of India. He also refuted Mr Patil’s claim, made earlier in his statement that Home Secretary VK Duggal had visited the state and had discussed the situation with various authorities.

Terming Mr Patil’s statement as "an insult to the injury", Mr Malhotra refuted Mr Patil’s claim that there was no dearth of medicine and other essential commodities in the state, saying that LPG costs had risen to Rs 700 a cylinder there, petrol was at Rs 70 a litre and kerosene oil at Rs 40 a litre. "There is no life-saving drug left in hospitals there," Mr Malhotra claimed.

The BJP leader further lamented that with militants laying a siege on NH 39 leading to Imphal, the Centre has turned a blind eye to other alternative routes like NH 53. He asked the Centre to hand over these roads to the Border Road Organisation to make them viable routes.

BJP member Thapar Chand Gehlot too refuted Mr Patil’s claim that the Home Secretary had gone to Manipur on July 15 and asserted that the Congress government of the state was hand in glove with the militants in organising the blockade. He also referred to a controversial Intelligence Bureau report about militants getting political patronage in the state.

Supporting part of the allegations about the scarcity of essential commodities, CPM member Ajoy Chakrborty too had some probing question for Mr Patil about the fate of the Centre’s ongoing talks with NSCN (I-M) leaders and the Centre’s stand on their demand for Greater Nagalim.

Mr Patil sought to assure the House that the Centre would provide all help to Manipur government to deal with the situation. ’’The first option is for the state government to manage the situation. If it fails to do so, then we will try to send essential goods through other routes available in adjoining states, and can even airlift the commodities,’’ Mr Patil said adding that the North East states had many tribes having their own problems and issues.

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