Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Extortion threats call closing of banks and schools in Manipur

In 2008 also, Manipur is still entrapped under extortion threats and banks and schools are closing down due to demand for money from armed organizations operating in the state. The latest to follow is the United Bank of India to close down the several branches of the bank, the employees of which have stopped the work and are sitting on stir since yesterday.

On January 5 the Khumbong branch of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya was also closed following similar demands from an armed organization. Parents worried for their children have withdrawn them from the school. While the school principal had appealed to the parents to send back the children by today. Armed guards from Indian Reserve Battalion have been posted round-the-clock to protect the school.

According to reports available the employees of around 15 branches of the United Bank of India have refused to come back to work in spite of the pressure from its headquarters in Kolkata to keep the transaction going on in all its branches.

Due to close-down of these branches, all transactions running into crores of rupees daily have come to a grinding halt. The UBI used to be one of the leading banks in the state before it was taken over by the State Bank of India; still it has a strong presence in Manipur with several branches in rural and urban areas. Besides from handling commercial transactions, the UBI also handles salary and pension payments of the government employees.

Under the banner of United Forum of Banks Union employees are holding a dharna at the main branch in the capital located along the MG Road, demanding the withdrawal of the demands for money.

A meeting of the forum has also appealed to neighborly banks to support their protest. The forum decided to stop work indefinitely till the illegal militant organization withdrew their demand for money.

An employee of the bank said that when they took the matter to the regional office and headquarters office, they were ordered to keep the branches open and not to acknowledge to the demands of the armed groups. In such a situation, only the employees will become the soft targets. "We also cannot meet the huge demands from our own pockets," he added.

Another employee told that the bank has been frequently receiving threats. For fear of retaliation, the bank employees or their union are yet to lodge complaint with the police.
Meanwhile, the Imphal West police have registered a suo motto case. Before also, the financial institutions have received threats. The LIC Imphal branch had to be closed down for about two weeks in June 2007 following demands for money.

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