Sunday, February 27, 2011

A CFS reader's real life account

I am writing this in continuation to the last post in the blog (Air connectivity to Barak Valley – Another bumpy ride) … and I second the facts represented in the article as I myself have been a victim of poor connectivity to the region.
 I have been following this blog for quite some time now… and honestly, at times I found the posts to be little exaggerated and the writers seemed to have gone over the board till I encountered the problems of the region myself a few weeks ago.
I realized that the mere cancellation of just one flight to Silchar can actually leave you stranded for a good 2 - 3 days. On record, there are a number of direct and indirect flights operating on the Kolkata – Silchar route every day. In the event of a cancellation of a flight, you can still manage to travel simply by coughing up a hefty amount and detour of multiple cities. But on a bad day, as I experienced, all your permutations and combinations could fall apart… 
I was going to Silchar from Delhi in the mid of January earlier this year. Anticipating dense fog and the possibility of the cancellation of the flight from Delhi to Kolkata due to it, I preferred to take the safer route and booked a rail ticket from Delhi to Kolkata and an air ticket from Kolkata to Silchar, as fog was never is an issue on that particular route. But a late night call from Indian Airlines informing about the cancellation of the early morning flight came as a shocker to me, which later left me in a helpless situation when I found that there were no tickets available for the next three days. The next option was flying down to Guwahati and then taking a bus to Silchar, but destiny had other plans. There was a 48-hour roadblock going on in Meghalaya which compelled the bus operators to stop services for two days.
Right from the flight getting cancelled to the strike in Megahalaya, and then the rail services also getting disrupted … every possible thing was going against my plans as if the whole universe had come together to conspire against me. Finally, I was left with no other option but to change my travel plans and I dropped the idea of going home for the time being…
However, this trip of mine also made me travel through the length and breadth of the state… and the scenario out there in upper Assam was rather encouraging. The 300 km stretch from Guwahati to Jorhat seemed more like a 6 hour long joyride … even the highways around Kaziranga were so well maintained that they could easily be compared with the expressways we get to see in the other parts of the country. But, the trip back to Silchar from Guwahati brought me back to the reality… I was told the road condition on that stretch is pretty bad, but there was actually no road! The stretch between Ladrymbai to Kalain did not qualify to be termed as a road – vehicles were just managing to jostle through the hills giving its passengers lethal pains for life.
Once known as a day-long or an overnight journey, count yourself lucky if you manage to cover this distance in less than 15 hours. Even sturdy off-roaders seemed to be of no respite… the shock-absorber of a 3.0L SUV was being overpowered by the potholes of National Highway 44.
A portion of National Highway 44 near Kalain

 Problems are plenty… problems are there at the grass-root level, and some of these are perennial. Corruption, terrorism, geological hindrances have been the major factors responsible for the deadlock in development of southern Assam, and we have been pretty okay with these. We seem to have learnt living with such maladies with occasional protests from some circuits. In hindsight, I do not see the day too far away when travelling to our home town would not only be expensive, but impossible too…
 (This post came from one of the readers of CFS, who shared his own experience of travelling to Silchar and some other parts of Assam very recently. However, we have kept his name undisclosed as per his request)

1 comment:

  1. FROM THE SENTINEL, 8th March :
    Is Jiribam-Tupul BG dropped from national project?


    Special Correspondent

    SILCHAR, March 7: Mamata Banerjee, Railway Minister, has in her budget promised a diesel locomotive centre in Manipur. But, nothing positive has been held out about the action plan to complete the much delayed national project, Jiribam-Tupul BG, which was projected for implementation by 2009. Quite surprisingly, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs which cleared 11 national projects with their adequate and timely funding from non lapsable Northeast region rail development fund has not included Jiribam-Tupul which was declared a national project by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh while laying its foundation stone in 2003 in presence of the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

    The 11 national projects include Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam, Badarpur-Kumarghat, Bogibeel bridge, Rongia-Murkongselek, Dimapur-Zubra, Azara-Byrnihat, Bhairobi-Sairang, Agartala-Sabroom, Sevok-Rangpo and Byrnihat-Shillong which are targeted for completion between 2013-2015. The total estimated cost on these national projects is to the tune of Rs 17,005 crore. No plausible explanation has been given for the omission of Jiribam-Tupul project from the list.

    This however does reflect on the planning of the Rail Bhavan. As already pointed out Manipur has on date only 1.5 km of railhead. The fate of Jiribam-Tupul seems to be similar to that of Silchar-Lumding BG which has been caught in the vortex of politician-bureaucrat-contractor syndicate which has been active to delay and even scuttle this project for the sake of transport lobby. The then Prime Minister Devegowda who laid the foundation of this national project in 1996 in the presence of then Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan committed to say its completion by 2002.

    It is to be recalled that Manipur did not favour extension of the rail link from Jiribam as it would necessitate movement of trains over the congested MG Hills section of Silchar-Lumding route. Manipur favoured rail link to Imphal through Diphu on the Lumding-Tinsukia BG route up to Kerong surveyed by RITES in 1997 and approved in 1998. Lalu Prasad Yadav had then said that on the advice of Manipur Government Diphu-Kerong plan was dropped. Railway Ministry was therefore back to Jiribam-Tupul, 20 km short of Imphal though the survey described it as “highly critical and costly”. While the unigauge conversion of Silchar-Lumding is yet to take days, there is no satisfactory work on Jiribam-Tupul route. The talk of diesel locomotive centre against this backdrop looks only an exercise to keep the people of Manipur in good humour.

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Silchar through the Lense