It is perhaps too late for the District administration to take action, but it is indeed the need of the hour for booking the Coordinator cum Manager of CCL International Limited, Jai Kishore (40) from Tura in West Garo Hills over the delay in repair of the National Highway 62. The arrest comes after a complaint filed some months ago by a group of people from Baghmara over the delay in repair of the highway – considered one of the worst in the entire North East. The FIR had been filed in the town of Baghmara.
It may be mentioned that NH 62 is the lifeline of residents of South Garo Hills which starts from Dudhnoi in Assam before ending at Karonggre in West Garo Hills. It passes through most of the district and has been lying in a state of ruin for over a decade now.
CCL is among 4 contractors awarded contracts for the repair of NH 62. While 3 of the contractors have begun work on repair of the road, CCL has remained adamant in not starting work.
Not forgetting that the lifeline of Meghalaya is road communication, most of the important roads were constructed by the then British Raj, while the successive state governments are doing mainly the maintenance work. However, lately the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India has been doing its best to further enhance the length of the roads. The state Public Works Department has always been considered as the plum portfolio, but the durability of any roads is questionable. The Garo Students’ Union (GSU), Phulbari on April 25, 2018 once again objected to the poor quality of materials being used in the ongoing repair of the Agia – Medhipara – Phulbari – Tura (AMPT) road.
The pressure group also stated that repair on the road which has faced severe ridicule due to the extremely poor execution of work which has begun for a few stretches, including the stretch between Nidanpur to Koylaghat, just beyond Phulbari in West Garo Hills.
President of GSU, Phulbari unit, Francewell Marak stressed that the citizen of Garo hills in particular have suffered due to neglect of authorities. He added that this time, they do not want to suffer the same fate once again. GSU has complained against the poor material quality being used by the sub contractors so that action may be taken on the matter. He also added the degraded materials are being used by the contractors to earn huge profits.
The entire stretch of AMPT road is set to be rehashed after Central funds were finally provided for its redevelopment. While work on the initial stretch is already on the way, the road from the vicinity of Hallidayganj to Rajabala and then onto Pedaldoba will be redone after contracts are awarded.
Elsewhere the slogan of - No Road No Vote - is most common in this new India, but it is for the first time that such a war cry has been sounded by over 800 voters of the remote village of Huroi in East Jaintia Hills District during the 2018 Meghalaya Election, a village located along the international Indo-Bangla border. The villagers had unanimously decided to boycott the February 27 state elections on ground of “no road no vote” as a mark of protest against the apathetic attitude of the state government towards the region.
According to village secretary Poly Pohlong, the decision was taken at a meeting convened by the Dorbar executive committee of Huroi which was held to discuss on the problems faced by the people despite representations submitted on many occasions. A memorandum on this regard was also submitted to the Deputy Commissioner of East Jaintia Hills District, who is also the District Election Officer on August 28, 2017.
The aggrieved villages had also suggested that the General Election should be held during monsoon season so that the government can understand the hardship they have been facing for years.
The village secretary had said that they will only withdraw their decision if the state government adheres to the three demands: Immediate repairing of the Sonapur-Borkhat road by the PWD (roads), to get approval from NEC and start construction of the Rymbai-Borkhat-Jalapur road project within this year and upgradation of Huroi sub-centre to a Primary Health Centre.
It may be mentioned that way back in 2011, the Public Health Department has submitted a proposal for construction of the Rymbai-Borkhat-Jalalpur road at an estimated cost of Rs 94 crore to the North Eastern Council (NEC), which is still awaiting the approval of the state government, as all the proposal has to be vetted by the state government. Till date the NEC did not give approval because the State government did not fulfill the documents required. The PWD has assured that work will start soon but yet there has been no work, no survey conducted till now.
Also for repairing of the road, which was also a proposal from the PWD, Khliehriat at an estimated cost of Rs. 64 crore in 2016 but the state government did not approve the proposal adding time and again the problems have been highlighted but the government still turned a blind eye to the needs of the people.
This is not the only village which has been cut off from the cities; other villages like Lailong, Hingaria and Lejri are facing the same problems. Most of the rural villages are actually still being deprived of motorable roads, hence most of the produces fail to reach the market.
Every year, just before the financial year ending, there will be massive repair and blacktopping of the lanes and bye-lanes in the state capital and other headquarters, while the rural sector is neglected.
Such frequent repairs and expansion of the road should be stopped till the state government manages to connect all the rural areas. Since most contractors understand that there will be annual repairs of roads, they only do cosmetic repairs, such that the following year they will also avail the contracts.
Actually such contractors should be blacklisted and not to be given any further new work. There is also a need to make all such contractors accountable by repairing the pot-holes with their own funds.
47 year old Meghalaya is without railways connection and air connectivity and purely dependant on road communication; whereas the indifference of the state government has failed to connect the rural sectors. The villagers of Huroi have totally lost hope on their elected representatives; hence have taken such decision of ‘No Road No Vote’ protest hoping to wake up the administration just before the State General Assembly election due in 2018. Such an example and step should be emulated by all constituencies in the state, which in one way is of seeking Progress Report from their respective representatives.
The cosmetic look of Meghalaya is most visible through the Public Work Department (Roads), where black-topping work is being carried out every year just a month before the Financial Year Ending. This year too, even in the poll bound state, the work is being carried out in various part of the city just to utilize the funds. This work is only going to be washed off during the monsoon season in the very first shower of rain. It is indeed that the work (black-topping of roads) is just cosmetics.
The State Government, as it calls for Tenders for any of the PWD (Roads) projects, should also include a clause that the contractor should assure that the work will at least sustain for three years, otherwise the same contractor should mend the same with their own funds and not make this a burden on the public exchequer. This will at least prevent such cosmetic works which have been seen for years.
The cosmetic work is not only in PWD (Roads), the administrative performance, the government services- Public affairs and legislation need to be carefully and religious drafted, otherwise everything is just mandatory like using cosmetics and arrests like in the case of Kishore.