Aizawl: All government offices within the Hachhek assembly constituency in western Mizoram’s Mamit district remained shut on Tuesday due to a strike called by an areca nut growers’ society, village authorities and NGOs.

The protest came two days ahead of President Droupadi Murmu’s visit to the state. The president will arrive on Thursday on a two-day visit to the northeastern state. Apart from attending a varsity convocation, she will also address the state assembly during her visit. 

A group of landowners in the northern part of the state also threatened to stage indefinite blockade on National Highways- 306 and 6, the lifeline of Mizoram that links the state with the rest of the country over compensation. The proposed indefinite strike will begin from Thursday, the day of the President’s arrival in the state.

Beginning Tuesday, areca nut growers and villagers within the Hachheck constituency bordering Assam,  started picketing government offices to prevent government employees from attending their offices. 

Police said that there was no untoward incident during the protest.

Hachhek Bial Kuhva Chingtu Pawl (HBKCP), the association representing areca nut growers in Hachhek area,  has been demanding the state government to take measures to resolve the problems faced by the growers in selling their fresh areca nuts at the local markets and transporting them outside the state. 

The grower society general secretary Lalremruata Khiangte said that the agitation was to mount pressure on the state government.

He said that the strike against government offices will continue till November 4 and they will block inter-state and intrastate highways within Hachhek constituency from November 5 to November 8 if the government fails to take measures on or before November 4.

The agitated people would go on an indefinite total shutdown from November 9 if the government still fails to address their problems on or before November 8, he said. 

Of 32 villages within the assembly constituency, 30 villages, which grow betel nuts, could not sell and transport their harvest to Assam for a long time, he said.  

He said that leaders of the areca nut growers’ society had met higher authorities in the state government, including chief minister Zoramthanga on the issue several times but to no avail. “Despite an agreement between chief ministers of Mizoram and Assam in September, Mizoram grown fresh areca nuts can’t be transported to Assam due to the crackdown on Burmese dried areca nuts by the Assam government leading to severe marketing problems to the farmers,” Khiangte said.An official said that the state government is making efforts to resolve the problems of the farmers.

She said a proposal was made earlier for setting up processing units to farmer locally-grown areca nuts and a market survey has also been conducted to ensure that the state-grown betel nuts are sold at least in the local markets. Meanwhile, a landowners’ association in the Kolasib district has called for an indefinite road blockade on NH-306 and NH-6 commencing from Thursday. The landowners between Vairengte and Kawnpui villages in Kolasib district have been demanding compensation for their lands to be affected by the widening of the National Highways. 

The association secretary H. Lalrinawma said that compensation has been delayed due to some issues between the state’s forest department and National Infrastructure and Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), the Centre owned construction company that will execute the widening work. Officials of state forest department and NHIDCL were not available for comments on the issue of compensation.

Earlier NHIDCL said that the highway projects between Vairengte and Kawnpui are delayed due to forest issues.

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