The indefinite curfew and ‘self-imposed’ blockades by many localities, post confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in Manipur are adversely affecting essential services.
On Wednesday, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in a statement said that movement of food grains/empty trucks, labourers and employees who are trying their best to bring sufficient supply in the state have been hampered due to the lockdown/curfew.
The statement said many trucks are stranded at FCI Depot at Sangaiprou, Koirengei, Sawombung, Jiribam and other places thereby causing hardships to the transporters.
Without free circulation of trucks, there is no other way of replenishing the stock of foodgrains in the landlocked state like Manipur, it said.
These also affect the operations of FCI in the receiving and issuance of food grains for public distribution. Further, with the report of one positive case in the state, there have been some instances at Sawombung where handling contractors received threats from locals who demanded not to bring labourers to the depot, it said.
It further said that some locals also put up road blocks in the approach road leading to FSD Sangaiprou and FSD Thoubal and thereby causing hindrance to the movement of loaded/empty trucks and movement of FCI employees.
“The primary responsibility of FCI is to maintain sufficient stock to meet the requirement of foodgrain (Rice) for implementation of NSFA (National Food Security Act) and Other Welfare Schemes. The role of FCI becomes even more crucial at this time of crisis due to the spread of COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). The Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India has declared the services in the Food Corporation of India as a Public Utility Service under the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947,” it stated.
It appealed to all concerned, including the Police/CSO/ Local Authorities etc to exempt the movement of FCI trucks/FCI Handling labourers/ employees from any such restrictions as per standard operating procedures, so as to ensure availability of sufficient food grains (Rice) in Manipur.
“The cooperation and understanding of the general public and the authorities concerned is solicited at this critical juncture,” it added.
The state government imposed curfew in the entire districts of the state on Tuesday following confirmation of a COVID-19 positive case in the state. The security agencies are strictly enforcing the curfew which was enforced to prevent the further spread of the dreaded disease.
Against this backdrop, many fear-gripped localities across the state have put up barricades at the entry and exit points of their ‘Leikais’ (alleyways) to prevent people from entering their areas.
As such, many are feeling the pinch of the unwanted development taking place in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. People have started hoardings essential commodities in panic.
It is learnt that medicines stocks, particularly for diabetes and Blood Pressure (BP), are almost running out of stock.
As informed by one of the pharmacists, some people purchased the medicines in bulk due to the prevailing situation. Hand sanitizers and masks ran out of stock few weeks ago and the pharmacies are not sure as to when the next stock will arrive.
Barricades in Tamenglong
Meanwhile, in Tamenglong district, a medical team was stopped from entering a village by the locals who had set up barricades despite the order and prior information by district commissioner Armstrong Pame to allow the medical team to pass through. They even threatened to beat up the team and destroy the vehicle, a source said.
“It is unfortunate that the medical department team vehicle carrying all essential drugs and logistics were not allowed to pass through Matung village. The vehicle had to return back to Tamenglong through Khongshang. They were stranded at Rankhung,” district CMO Dr Chambo Gonmei said.
In an effort to address the issue, the DC called an emergency press meeting on Wednesday and in a video message urged all concerned village authorities to remove all “self-barricades” and allow essential services to reach the people in this difficult time.
“Please do not block highways and remove all barricades, especially on the highway with immediate effect,” Armstrong appealed to the villagers.