Upper Assam, Nagaland fear food crisis

Supply of essential commodities to the Upper Assam districts and Mokokchung, Tuensang, Mon and Dimapur in Nagaland is mostly controlled by traders of the Jorhat wholesale market. "There is enough stocks to last two weeks, but Hindi speaking truck drivers are not willing to come to Upper Assam," said Duli Chand Agarwalla, general secretary, Upper Assam Chambers of Commerce. "The shortage of Bihari labourers has compounded the situation." At least seven buses of Bihari labourers left the Upper Assam towns in a Bihar-bound bus yesterday. Agarwalla said prices of essential commodities were likely to increase in the next few days. Agarwalla's statement is, however, contrary to claims by made by officials of the Assam Chambers of Commerce in Guwahati that there is enough food stock being carried by trains to Assam.
Meanwhile, there are fears growing of illegal Bangladeshi migrants replacing the Bihari labourer in the area. "An Assam-like situation is taking place in the four districts with illegal Bangladeshi migrants replacing the Bihari labourers" said Mosis Bendang, president, Mokokchung Chambers of Commerce. “Traders are enlisting the services of unskilled local labourers, who take double the time to unload a truck than their Bihari counterparts do. There is a possibility of perishable goods being damaged during the process of unloading and if that happens, prices will increase,” Agarwalla said. The Upper Assam Chambers of Commerce has meanwhile, appealed to labourers not to panic and urged the district administration to protect them. "The killings of Bihari labourers in neighbouring Tinsukia by ULFA militants has shattered the morale of those who had stay back despite the attacks,” Agarwalla said. According to sources, there has been hardly any activity at the Jorhat wholesale market since the violence broke out in the state.

By Bijoy Shankar Handique (newsfiledelhi@rediffmail.com)