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Petrol at Rs 200, lack of essential drugs, cash-less ATMs: Life hobbles in violence-hit Manipur | Ground Report

Chingkheinganbi Mayengbam

By Chingkheinganbi Mayengbam: Petrol at Rs 200 a litre on the black market, an acute shortage of life-saving drugs, ATMs running dry and shops open for just a few hours every day. Hidden behind the screaming ‘Manipur is Burning’ headline are the struggles of daily life in Imphal valley, cut off due to a highway blockade.

And it has been like this for weeks now.

It’s been exactly a month since the violence broke out in Manipur between the Meitei and Kuki communities following a protest rally by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) on May 3 against the demand for inclusion of the Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category. In the aftermath, both the communities suffered irreparable losses and the state government’s figures put the number of deaths in the month-long violence at 98 with 310 more injured.

Members of both the communities lost their homes and were forced to take refuge in relief camps either in Manipur or in places which are thousands of kilometres away from home, including in Delhi, Dimapur and Guwahati. But what is the situation of the people in the hill state who have been cut off from the world without internet connection for a month and are living in the small interstices when the perpetual curfew lifts for a few hours every day?

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As sporadic violence continues in different areas of Manipur, life must continue. But for that, essential commodities of daily life are needed. The scarcity of such commodities has become one of the major blowbacks of the violence. The two communities – the Meiteis and the Kukis – are warring with each other, but this is an issue which affects both.

Imphal valley hosts all tribes and communities. So, the daily post-violence struggles are not limited to any particular tribe or community.


The price of essential commodities doubled overnight as civil bodies blocked the National Highway Number 2 and prevented goods trucks from entering Imphal, the capital city.

The average price of rice shot up to Rs 60 per kg from Rs 30 earlier. The price of vegetables has also been affected. Onions, which were earlier priced at Rs 35 a kilo, now cost Rs 70, and the price of potatoes increased from Rs 15 to Rs 40. Eggs now cost Rs 10 per piece from the earlier Rs 6. The cost of refined oil has also shot up to around Rs 250 to 280 from an earlier price of Rs 220.

If it pinches hard to pay Rs 100 a litre for petrol in your city, just imagine the pain in Imphal valley. Manipuris are paying as much as Rs 200 on the black market for a litre of petrol as most fuel pumps run out of fuel. At the few select petrol pumps that are still open, queues extend as long as the eye can see.

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There is also an acute shortage of life-saving drugs and over-the-counter medicines as the roads continue to be blocked. The scarcity was further exacerbated after people resorted to panic-buying and hoarding.

The lack of commodities in a state already suffering from violence has hit people further. Members of the two communities who took refuge in relief camps said there wasn’t enough food for everyone and that they had to go to bed hungry.

In several relief camps, many are falling sick and are left with no medical aid as there is none to help them. Infants are left unvaccinated even as the rains bring an onslaught of vector-borne illnesses.


On top of the rising prices, the issues of the people are further compounded by the curfew which is only relaxed for a few hours every day when people have to rush to buy the items of daily need or essential medicines.

But how do the buyers pay the vendors as ATMs run out of cash, the banks are shut and there is no internet? Add to that the RBI’s announcement that Rs 2,000 denomination banknotes would be withdrawn from circulation. The situation is quite dire.

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Some days after the violence first broke out, banks started opening for a few hours as the curfew was relaxed for an hour or two longer every day. This led to people rushing to banks to ensure that they finish their transactions before the curfew was imposed again for the day.

However, the banks were shut down a few days later after fresh violence erupted and the relaxation in curfew ended.

Manipur is not new to blockades and bandhs, resulting in increased prices of commodities and people lining up outside petrol pumps and ATMs. However, the clashes between the two communities pose a latent threat of the possibility of violence erupting any moment anywhere, even after a month.

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So, every day, as people rush to get their basic supplies, there is a fear of what tomorrow could bring.

As people from all the communities suffer in Imphal valley, locked down due to a highway blockade, there is some hope in sight as far as essential supplies are concerned.

During his recent visit to Manipur, Home Minister Amit Shah said arrangements have been made for the supply of gas cylinders, petrol and vegetables. Reassuring people who were seeing prices of essentials skyrocket, Shah added that supply of essential commodities to Manipur from the rest of the country will be ensured by setting up a temporary platform at Khongsang railway station.

It is likely that even as tempers cool down, prices too will.

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