Friday, September 17, 2021
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Common! We yearn for better roads

The State of Nagaland may not be the poorest State in India. Yet, Nagaland has the worst condition of roads in India by which our State remains to be the least developed and most backward. The road condition is the major indicator of our poverty and the degree of corruption in governance too. Improvement of our roads of all categories is therefore imperative for all purposes.
Meanwhile, I congratulate the State PWD (R&B) for the ongoing improvements of roads in Dimapur and Kohima. In the 56th year of the Statehood of Nagaland, the quality road repairs of many interior town roads particularly at Kohima and Dimapur beside the construction of 4-lane Highway of Dimapur and Kohima are going on. During the last 16 years of settlement in the locality, the second road repair for a road like Mohonkhola-Aradura in New Ministers’ Hill, Kohima is going on although we are yet to see whether the improvement will last this monsoon or not. Whatever may be the lasting of the roads in Kohima town, the improvements have definitely changed the face of Kohima. The people of Nagaland are not used to ride such roads of riding quality, and at the very moment driving around Kohima town one tends to forget that one is in Kohima in absence of bumps and dust. How good it will be if we keep these roads clean by using common sense that it is unethical for one to litter around rubbish of all kind on the beautiful roads. Church platforms and school chapels are the best for educating people on sanitation which are indeed underused.
Beside city roads, within few years time hence we are going to have the 4-lane highway from Dimapur to Kohima. Roads will be improved in phase manner possibly in other towns as a beginning has been made. We all know the quality road repair is capital intensive. And we know that roads being one of the greatest public assets, its maintenance has to be on priority. Whereas, by nature the Nagas do not usually care for public properties. Look at public offices how soon the newly furnished rooms are dirtied by mostly pan chewers alone mostly of the literate and of the creams of the society, for instance. Because of such very nature of senselessness, lest we are controlled by stringent law, destruction of our assets particularly roads by private individuals will become rampant. The State Govt. therefore has to legislate comprehensive law by which anyone, be it a Govt. Department or private Company or individual, whoever damages any portion of road be held accountable for necessary repair. Natural calamities cannot be averted, and yet manmade calamities have to be prevented by the Govt. under any circumstances because we are tired of living in Nagaland with rugged roads for half a century.
When the roads are improved, it is the responsibility of both the concerned Department and the general public to maintain the roads. My apprehension is that soon the PHED and the Telecom will start damaging the beautiful and the costly improved roads for want of master plans and they will continue to destroy the asset of one another. Adding to the above woes, the private individuals will not care for the public roads by means of dumping the waste in the drainages, stocking their materials on the roads blocking the public passage and also the drainage. For local maintenance, the Panchayat authorities have a major role to play in curbing such destructive activities in respective colonies, lest a road which can last for 5 years could not last beyond a monsoon. Another major concern is what the KMC has just initiated. I am told that in Aizawl, Mizoram any citizen willing to buy vehicle is not permissible unless one has the garage. In our context, we have no such restriction and despite our roads being narrow, no road is spared from being used as parking slot. Practically one third of the width of every road is permanently occupied by the vehicle owners using it for parking, and at certain spots of major approach roads, permanent parking used to cause regular traffic congestions all the time. Streamlining of the park-able and not park-able areas by competent authority with regular monitoring is imperative.
While I am impatiently waiting to see the completion of all these roads, the other day a statement appeared in local dailies purportedly issued by the Landowners from Purana Bazar to Chumukedima urging the contractor to withhold the ongoing 4-lane road construction in view of not satisfying the owners whose properties were affected. I was perplexed as to how the contractor could bulldoze that much distance of road with widening activities including dismantling part of RCC buildings should not the damage compensations being paid to those owners. Yet, the affected landowners and the concerned nodal authorities know the merit and the demerit of the very statement. In matters of pacifying the affected property owners for such major road project, justice has to be done to all the affected people as per the law and its precedence. To avoid causing embarrassment I skipped indicating the area, and yet where bad precedents were created, it was never by the ignorant public but basically by the concerned State Govt. officials in connivance with the affected gullible property owners with the sole objective of earning illegal money out of such compensations at the cost of the project. The greed of those officers who refused to become transparent in their handlings of the given tasks but always lay eggs of injustice and discrimination against the deserving usually entails resultant intricacies. Such complications are in fact hampering some of the ongoing road projects at the very moment. Although, I have no knowledge of similar mess with Purana Bazar-Chumukedima 4-lane project, the moment I read the landowners’ statement, it reminded me of the mismanagement of certain road by those shameless field officers due to which the cohesion amongst the people is placed in disarray. On the other hand, I fervently appeal to those landowners not to take undue advantage but to be rational. We need such category of road in Dimapur and which can be developed on ground surface only but not in the air. None is required to be educated by the other as for the importance of these lifelines (better roads) of Nagaland. By common sense everyone has to give best cooperation to the contractors and the monitoring authorities for the successful completion of these projects.
I also congratulate the Working Committee comprising of 7 NNPGs for exempting the contractor for Purana Bazar-Chumukedima road from taxation. This major project deserves such exemption from any discouragement specially who claims to be Naga patriots. If not in this manner, when one can proof one’s patriotism in action.
Beside the 4-lane Dimapur-Kohima road, there are the other four 2-lane SARDP roads are too under construction simultaneously which are all being monitored by NHIDCL. Whereas, regularly observing the quality finishing of the limited portions of Dimapur-Kohima road, it is found unsatisfactory as the moment the completed portion is left for the traffic, the crakes developed on the surface of the carpeted road causing potholes. How such finishing is going to give us a lasting road is the question. The other observation is the progress of the works is sluggish; not only sluggish but the stretch from Jharnapani till Medziphe town has been virtually abandoned for months. Also, there are namesake activities in Zubza-Dzudza sector. Who is responsible to activate for expeditious progress? Another observation is the transparency and effectiveness of monitoring of NHIDCL on 2-lane roads in Phek District is found wanted. What will happen to the fate of the alignment and the quality construction if a contractor is at all allowed to guide NHIDCL technically? The corruption virus of Nagaland is known to be most virulent and as lethal as Ebola virus that it is almost unavoidable for anybody to get infected by it. For the information of NHIDCL, the much feared CBI landed in Nagaland more than once for investigations and yet what it could do was just mewed and disappeared with its tail tugged between its thighs. Can NHIDCL prove its worth in action? Better not become a show piece. Or is NHIDCL living like Romans because you are in Rome?
—Z. Lohe

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