Imphal, Jun 11 : Construction work of the ambitious Jiribam-Tupul rail project in Manipur has come to a grinding halt following the stir launched by the All Tribal Students' Union, Manipur (Atsum) which is demanding all-round development and good governance in the hills.
Atsum - the apex tribal students body of Manipur - kicked off its second phase of the 38-day-long "sustained agitation" on Friday midnight. The first phase of the agitation had ended on Wednesday.
A few days ago, Atsum had written to the deputy chief engineer of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) to suspend the ongoing railway project work during its stir period saying that cessation of all national projects in tribal inhabited areas was a component of the agitation.
The foundation stone of the Jiribam-Tupul rail project was laid by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2004 which would connect Manipur's Jiribam subdivision bordering Assam and Tupul in Tamenglong district near Imphal.
Railway officials had assured that Jiribam-Tupul section would be completed by 2015, while construction of the second phase of the project connecting Imphal and Tupul would be concluded in the next four years.
Among others, the Atsum has been demanding appointment of adequate staff in schools and making operational of all health centres with better infrastructures and manpower in the hills.
Fulfillment of tribal rights on land and natural resources and establishment of a state commission of Scheduled Tribes in Manipur have also been incorporated in the Atsum's charter of demands.
"We will continue our stir until and unless the government complies with our legitimate demands. Our volunteers are keeping sharp vigil on the rail project areas and we will resort to intense action if construction work resumes at the railway project sites," Atsum speaker Majabung Gangmei said.
"The government's indifferent attitude towards our justified movement will only bear unwanted consequences" he said.
A PRO of a private firm engaged in the project said all construction activities have been stopped since Friday night. He appealed to the government to do the needful to ensure timely completion of the project.