Despite tall promises and claims made by the Government of India and the State Government, the National Highways (NH) in and leading to Manipur are still horrible highways.
Even after 73 years of Manipur’s merger with India, the National Highways in and leading to Manipur are not made to be all-weather roads. The two highways NH-2 Imphal-Dimapur and NH-37 Imphal-Jiribam are the life lines of land-locked Manipur though railway connection has been started recently. It has been a wish and hope of the people of Manipur for 73 years to have all-weather highways enabling the commuters travel smoothly. Of the two national highways – NH-2 and NH-37, the people of Manipur depends mostly on NH-2 Imphal-Dimapur Road for all purposes. NH-2 is not only the National Highway but also the Asian Highway-1.
People who travel on surface along Imphal-Dimapur Road of NH-2 have been experiencing untolerable inconveniences and body-injuring difficulties due to the horrible conditions of the road in the name of ongoing construction of the highway four-lane in some stretch and two-laning in some areas.
The stretch of the NH-2 from Mao Gate in Manipur to Phesama in Nagaland via Khuzama is the most horrible part where vehicles have at many time during rainy to ride in knee-depth muds for many years.
The question here crops up – why National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) has been taking too much time rendering more inconveniences to the commuters in the name of four-laning construction?
Meanwhile, reports quoted Dr. Atha Vizol, President of the Southern Angami Highway Landowners Union (SAHLU) on October 6 as saying that the NHIDCL is totally misleading about actual facts before the High Court and the public with their one after another undersirable attitudes of false allegations towards the landowners along the stretch of the two-lane road project of NH-2 from Phesama to Khuzama.
The SAHLU has said that it is not against any developmental works for two-laning of the National Highway-2 being undertaken by NHIDCL.
“We have never at any point of time had restricted any developmental activities within our area, especially on the ongoing work programme of the existing National Highways”, Atha said.
The SAHLU President informed that the land owners had issued No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Phesama Check Gate to Khuzama village State political boundary inclusively for the entire stretch of two-lane road but the NHIDCL had dishonoured, disregarded and deceived the NOC of the village authority and in their own volition without any rhyme or reason had reduced 7 Km (Phesama Gate to Kigwema Bypass Junction) from the existing project and further descoped the existing National Highway which is in total violation of the contract agreements.
Dr. Atha disclosed that instead of following the existing culverts the NHIDCL had dug out illegal culverts at various points along the highway where there is no water passage and caused huge damage to land in its vicinity, including irrigation channels and cultivation.
The SAHLU president challenged NHIDCL and contractors to come forward and locate, identify the landowners on the spot and point out those who were hindering the ongoing work. He also cautioned NHIDCL and the contractors against playing with safety and security of lives of the people.
It may be noted that Southern Angami Public Organisation (SAPO) had on March 3 this year, written a letter to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio urging him to address their grievances vis-à-vis the road.
The Chief Mminister had also on March 15 this year written a letter to Union Minister for Road Transport and National Highways Nitin Gadkari and raised the issues with regard to Kohima-Mao two-lane road project with a total distance of 18.6 km.
Highlighting the importance of the inter-state road, which also runs till Myanmar, Rio stressed on the need to clear the damage compensation to the landowners for 15.35km, as per the assessment carried out by the district authorities.
Repair works by SAPO from Phesama-Khuzama along NH-2 connecting Nagaland with Manipur
However, as the road conditions along NH-2 connecting Nagaland with Manipur continue to deteriorate, the Southern Angamis, once again took it upon themselves to repair roads on October 26 from Phesama to Mao gate through Khuzama.
Reports said repair works were undertaken for the stretch from Phesama till Khuzama covering around 30 km. Work was initiated under the Southern Angami Public Organization (SAPO), the apex body of the Southern Angami Naga tribe.
SAPO President Kevipodi Sophie informed that the decision to repair the roads was initiated as commuters, especially locals who ply regularly, face untold hardship and miseries. Repair works were carried out with free will contributions from some villages and individuals, and the full repair work could not be carried out due to limited resources, the majority was done satisfactorily and the outcome turned out good.
SAPO President said that the two-lane road project, after the NHIDCL awarded it to the fortune group, the road has only gone from bad to worse, making it impossible for vehicles to ply.
Besides being a link road to 13 Angami Naga villages, the road also connects to major districts in Nagaland and Manipur. Besides the famed Kisama heritage village, the route also leads to the famous Dzükou valley, which is an international tourist trekking destination, reports added.
“Since we don’t see any advance progress as expected to date, despite the repeated approaches, this is the second time we have taken up the initiative as part of our social work to exhibit our utmost concern and safety for all commuters,” report quoting President of the Southern Angami Youth Organization (SAYO) Metekhrielie Mejura said.
Metekhrielie said that locals living along the stretch have witnessed numerous accidents and health complications for commuters. In case of any untoward incidents due to the deplorable roads, he said that the construction agencies would be held responsible.
“It is a shame to call this a National Highway with this road condition. We, once again, urge upon the competent authority and construction agencies to immediately take up and execute the works as assigned or else SAYO will be compelled to bar the entry and exit of heavy vehicles, like goods ferrying trucks till the roads, are made into two lanes or four lanes and till roads are made to the motorable standards for the safety of all,” SAYO President Metekhrielie warned.
It may be mentioned that in July this year, SAYO had taken up minor repair works along the stretch after monsoon rains added misery to the already existing deplorable condition of the road. The pathetic road conditions along NH-2 connecting Nagaland with Manipur have prompted the Southern Angami Youth Organization, the apex youth body of the Southern Angami Naga tribe, to take up voluntary repair work from Phesama village to Viswema village.
Now, the question is how long will civil bodies continue to repair the National Highways in the interest of the commuters and residents who settle alongside the Phesama to Mao Gate stretch of the NH-2?
There is none denying the fact that the Mao Gate to Phesama stretch of NH-2 which has been in a terrible condition in terms of years is part of Manipur’s life-line Imphal-Dimapur Road of NH-2. Many people of Manipur who cannot afford air tickets and those who have to travel by road are travelling daily on this Highway. All vehicles transporting essential commodities for Manipur are also travelling heavily
Therefore, in the interest of the people of Manipur and the commuters, Manipur Government and civil society organisations should not remain silent. They should urge the Government of India and authorities concerned to complete the construction of the NH-2 at the earliest.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics