The three-week-long truckers’ strike has almost doubled retail prices in at least 15 towns and villages in south-west Mizoram. And adding to the woes, a government truck ferrying rice to the area broke down midway in an apparent sabotage.
Police have begun investigations into the apparent sabotage of the government truck after District Civil Supplies Officer R Vanrengpuia filed an FIR on Tuesday.
Residents at Tlabung town (near the Indo-Bangladesh border) have meanwhile said a kilogram of rice now sells for about Rs 40-45 at private shops (from Rs 20-Rs 25 per kilogram last month) due to a shortage caused by the absence of government supplies that was normally distributed at subsidised rates through government retailers in 15 towns and villages of the region.
A government truck that was sent from capital Aizawl to district headquarters Lunglei was on way to Tlabung town on Sunday evening with almost 72 quintals of rice when it developed a fault along the way and eventually broke down. A pile of salt was discovered in the fuel tank. Police have not arrested anyone yet.
Private truck drivers in Lunglei have refused to ply the route in protest against the Tlabung Supplies storekeeper’s recent move to make truck drivers pay in kind (in this case rice) for any missing sacks of rice.
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The storekeeper, according to Food and Civil Supplies (FCS) Minister John Rotluangliana, is acting on orders from the government to enforce the new rules put in place to check frequent cases of consignments reaching their destinations with less bags than were originally loaded at various godowns across the state. Drivers were earlier pardoned if they paid for the missing bags in cash.
The drivers’ union has alleged Lalruatfeli, the storekeeper, is implementing this method arbitrarily, making only some pay in kind while allowing others to pay in cash.
They have demanded Lalruatfeli’s transfer and a new storkeeper be stationed at Tlabung.
With drivers of private trucks refusing to ferry rice, the FCS department has begun using its own trucks to ferry the rice and has also borrowed vehicles from other departments.