Dr. R.B. Thohe Pou
The word “Pathetic Condition” may be too harsh to use in describing the National Highways (NHs) of Northeast India but one need to travel by vehicle to understand and feel the true sense of the NHs in northeast India. In previous MP election the BJP campaigned about the “Shinning India” and it may be true in NE India Highways, which is indeed shinning with copious of potholes, pebbles and dust in National Highways.
In 2003 I went to Aizawl by bus from Guwahati and had a good experienced in that pathetic road condition. This time on 2nd December 2009, I took flight from Kolkata to Agartala but since I want to experience the ground reality of the NH in northeastern States, on 4th Dec. 2009 I took bus from Agartala to Gauhati by bus and I had a good experienced travelling by bus for 21 hours. It is indeed horrible to travel 21 hours by bus in such a pathetic road condition where the road is small and Zig-zag. The NH54 from Assam-Tripura border to Assam-Meghalaya border is indeed so pathetic with lots of thick dust on the road with little tar (blacktopping) in some portion; there are too many potholes and during the raining seasons we can even make fish pond in those potholes along the NH. Between Tripura-Assam borders and Assam-Meghalaya border, the road is too bad and it took around 3hours in 60kms. The National Highway from Agartala to the border of Assam is comparatively better than the road from Tripura-Assam border to Assam-Meghalaya border even though the road is zig-zag.
We cannot deny that NHAI and State government is trying to improve the NHs in NE but the quality of road repairing and utilization of the sanctioned money may be questionable. As we move away from Guwahati – the commercial hub of Northeast India, we find more pathetic roads condition in the peripheral region. “The voluntary organization Save Guwahati Build Guwahati (SGBG) has stressed the need of improving the communications links to the northeast to arrest the spiraling rise of the prices of essential commodities” (AT) and need more people and organizations like SGBG to work as pressure group to improve the road transportation so as to reduce the cost of the essential commodities in the region. All the trucks owners in northeast also may need to join with other organization to improve the NHs in NE. It is worth to note that the Arunachal Pradesh has earmarked Rs 1000 crores in current budget for road construction, which is 22% to total state annual budget.
I took Network Travel bus from Guwahati to Manipur on 26th Dec.2009 and it is horrible to discover the same pathetic road condition, which is same as one decade back. It takes only 45minutes by flight from Guwahati to any other north eastern states but it takes around 16-22 hours by bus even though the distance is only between 450-650kms. The NH39 from Dimapur to Kohima shows not much improvement even though the situation in Nagaland is improved after Indo-Naga peace talks and ceasefire commenced in 1997. It is observe that the road from Dimapur just before reaching Kohima is under going repairing since one decade back but it remains the same with copious of dust in winter and very muddy in summer. But only God knows!
It is also observe that the NH39 in Nagaland is comparatively better than in Manipur. As we enter Mao-gate (Manipur) in the border of Nagaland, the dust in the road starts to envelope the whole body. The NH39 from Mao to Sekmai is too horrible and anyone who travels in this highway will have a token of memory to be kept through out one’s life. The prone land slide area in the periphery of Mao and Maram Bazaar is dangerous to life in summer and risky to lung in winter due to dust and smokes. There are too many potholes and dust near Assam Rifle camp at Lairowching and the Assam Rifles personnel residing in that locality is the witness to that pathetic road condition.
The NH39 from Karong Bazaar to Senapati District HQ is again terrible to travel and one has to use musk to cover up mouth and nose to avoid inhalation of dust and smokes. I think this is the main reason the Senapati District Students’ Association (SDSA) is always after the govt. to improve the pathetic road condition in that area and in the peripheral areas. The SDSA has officially declared to go for 5 days bandh in NH39 commencing from 30th Jan. 2010 mid-night and followed by indefinite economic blockade till the government implement their earlier MoU in 2009. The road from Senapati HQ to Imphal remains the same till Sekmai. However one can find little improvement from Sekmai to Imphal valley where the meteis are dominant in the areas. In November 2009, when a media team (Sangai Express) conducted an inspection tour of the National Highway 39 till Mao, it is reported that present condition of the National Highway belied its status. It is reported that the Works Department, Ministry has sanctioned required money for NH39 repairing since 2001 but it is claimed that it could not be utilized due to insurgent problems. In 2008, the central govt. has sanctioned Rs 39.25 crores for NH improvement in Manipur and tender notice has been given and last date of submission is on 10th Jan.2010. But since the NH39 is too bad and finalization to tender may take sometime, the state govt. has decided to start immediately the premix carpeting with funds from the state government.
Northeastern States are some of the most beautiful States of India but due to pathetic road condition and insurgent problem, we are still lacking behind from other regions of India. Once the NHs in NE is improved and those insurgent problems are solved, we will have copious of tourists from mainland India and around the world and northeastern states of India may become the Switzerland of India.