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Blockade and Demonetisation by United Naga Council Squeezes Trade among Tribals on India-Myanmar Border

Over 60,000 non-local businessmen at Moreh at one point of time, hardly 10,000 are left behind now

Imphal, November 27, 2016: The legalised border trade among tribals on the India-Myanmar international border continues to be hit by the blockade the United Naga Council has imposed since November 1 against Manipur, as well as the demonetization by India.

The Naga Council protesters are agitated over the Manipur government’s move to create a Sadar Hills district, fearing that some Naga-dominant lands might be included in the proposed district.

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The traditional trade worth crores of rupees among tribals on either side of the international border was legalised in 1995, bringing in considerable revenue to the exchequer.

The border trade centres are at Moreh in Manipur and Namphalong and Tamu in Myanmar.

The Centre’s November 8 decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes has only added to the border traders’ woes.

Ibopishak, a trader, said: “Myanmarese traders earlier freely accepted Indian rupees for transactions at Namphalong and Tamu (in Myanmar), at the locally fixed (illegal) foreign exchange rate of Rs 100 for 1,900 kyat (Myanmar currency). However, after the demonetisation, it has fallen to Rs 100 for 800 kyat.”

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The banks and the only two automated teller machines at Moreh are dry of cash for the last few days.

A south Indian who has set up his business at Moreh told IANS that he is seriously thinking of shifting out to the Mizoram-Myanmar border as there are no disruptions in business in Mizoram as in Manipur by the Nagas.

He rued that some tribal groups in Manipur are in the habit of imposing blockades and general strikes along the highways to choke the northeastern state.

Another businessman, Lakshman, said: “The border markets are shut down. Apart from shortage of high-denomination notes, one cannot take anything from Moreh to other parts of India due to the Naga economic blockade.”

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Shamir Hussain, a businessman, said of the over 60,000 non-local businessmen at Moreh at one point of time, hardly 10,000 are left behind now. The remaining have gone elsewhere to conduct their trade and business.

A small trader, Rashmi Bib, said: “Extortion is also responsible for declining business. There are over 14 checkposts and police stations on 60-km Moreh-Pallel route, where traders have to pay a percentage of the goods bought from Myanmar. There are some more checkpoints on the remaining 40 km between Pallel and Imphal.” (IANS)

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