Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Highway horrors...............

The very term ‘National Highway’ brings to our mind, the vision of a broad well maintained road, with vehicles zipping past at high speeds. However, visit Barak Valley and the same term attains an altogether different meaning.
The three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi have a fair share of national highways criss- crossing and connecting their towns and villages with the neighbouring states. National Highways 44, 53, 54, 54 Ext, 151 and 154 pass through various parts of these districts. In fact, there would be very few districts in other parts of India with such high density of national highways.  
Sadly, the good part ends here. These so called national highways are neither properly constructed nor well maintained.  As these highways fall in an area with extremely high rainfall with frequent possibilities of floods and landslides, there is need to not only construct them well but also maintain them on a regular basis. But, due to rampant corruption in the government circles, backed by equally unscrupulous netas, most of the sanctioned money is usurped.
An Army Jawan guards National Highway 44
NH 44, the most important of all these highways connects the valley with the rest of the country via Meghalaya. It enters Assam at Malidahar and travels 111 kilometres via Kalain, Katigorah, Badarpur , Karimganj and Patharkandi to enter Tripura. This is the only arterial road link for south Assam, Tripura and Mizoram.
The road was under the maintenance of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) till July, 2009. Project Setuk of the BRO regularly maintained the road with the help of central funds and despite frequent floods and landslides, the road remained more or less in good shape. However, disaster struck in July 2009 when the Assam Public Works Department’s (PWD) National Highways Division took over the responsibility of the road.
The department, notorious for corruption and non performance, neither has the technical expertise nor the infrastructure to maintain such an important road. It is a mystery as to why such a crucial road link was handed over to the PWD at all. As a result of its inefficiency, the highway completely collapsed within months. The long monsoon of 2010 worsened matters further and the stretch especially from Malidahar to Kalain had to be closed down a few times.
Finally, after prolonged agitation by the people and frequent road blockades by them,  reconstruction amounts were sanctioned by the centre and work was commenced by the PWD this winter. Assam’s PWD Minister Ajanta Neog has promised that the road will be ready before the advent of the monsoons.  
However, the turtle speed with which the work is being done currently, there is very little hope of the work getting finished on time. Whatever little has been constructed is of such poor quality that it is impossible for the repaired stretches to face the onslaught of the coming monsoons.  There have been mass protests and blockades by the residents of Katogorah, Badarpur, Karimganj and Patharkandi against the poor quality of the work. Despite assurances and reassurances by the ministers, MLAs, the Deputy Commissioner of Karimganj and the PWD bigwigs, nothing has changed on the ground.
The BRO, otherwise known for its efficiency, also seems to have been bitten by the PWD bug. The roads under their control have also deteriorated massively in the last couple of years.  The stretch from Badarpur Ghat to Silchar of NH 53 is in such poor shape that it takes about a couple of hours to cover the 25 km route.  BRO has recently started the repairing work of the stretch, but with rumours of the Assam PWD taking control of NH 53 as well possibly by next month, the integrity and interest of the BRO towards the work will always remain questionable.
The Assam portion of NH 54 from Silchar to Mizoram border via Sonabarighat and Dholai is also in dire straits. The BRO which was entrusted with the responsibility of double laning the road in 2008 has not even completed half the work leaving most parts of the highway in complete mess. Project Pushpak of the BRO which handles the road has shown complete callousness in addressing the legitimate grievances of the people.
NH 154 which goes to Hailakandi from Dhaleshwari is in comparatively better condition but the construction work of the 110 km stretch up to Vairobi in Mizoram is in progress for the last couple of years and is yet to be completed.
The East West corridor from Silchar to Saurashtra has been completed in most parts of the nation. But, in Barak Valley, the project has hardly seen any progress. According to the website of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), not even one of the contract packages of the road inside Barak Valley or the neighbouring Dima Hasao district has been completed. NH 54 Ext which connects Silchar with Haflong, now is a part of the East West Corridor, and is under the supervision of the NHAI. The poor maintenance of the road is not only hampering the road traffic but also jeopardising the gauge conversion project from Silchar to Lumding.
National Highways in Barak Valley, in a nutshell


National Highway no.
Areas Covered and distance
Maintaining Agency
Present condition
44
Malidahar-Kalain-Katigorah-Badarpur-Karimganj-Patharkandi to Tripura (116 km)
PWD Assam, National Highways Division
Extremely Poor (Repairing work in progress)
53
Badarpur Ghat – Silchar – Udharbond – Lakhipur to Manipur (100 km)
BRO
Poor (Repairing work in progress)
54 and 54 Extension
Silchar – Sonabarighat – Dholai to Mizoram and Silchar – Harangajao – Haflong –Dabaka - Lumding (335 km in total)
BRO, NHAI, Assam PWD
Extremely Poor, not motorable in parts
(Part of the East West corridor)
154
Dhaleshwari – Hailakandi-Vairobi in Mizoram (110 km)
Assam PWD
Moderate  (Construction   work in progress)
151
Karimganj- Sutarkandi (Bangladesh border) (14 km)
Assam PWD
Moderate (Construction   work in progress,constant allegations of poor construction quality)


The  Central Government is trying to withdraw BRO from most parts of North East to depute them for road construction projects on the China border. While Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has campaigned with the central government and prevented it from withdrawing the BRO from that portion of NH 44 which falls in his state, his counterpart in Assam has not bothered to take any such trouble. In fact, with these highways coming under the purview of the state government, our leaders have a greater opportunity to loot the funds that the centre will sanction for these roads from time to time.
The increasing number of Bailey bridges on the valley’s national highways is also baffling. On NH 44, there are Bailey bridges at Malidahar and Gumra, which go out of order frequently and throw the traffic out of gear. There is another one on NH 53 near Katakhal. It is unbelievable that the concrete bridges on these highways do not get repaired on time and Bailey bridges which can only be stop gap arrangements for a few months are used for road traffic for years.
Last year, when the Army had constructed a Bailey bridge near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi in place of a concrete bridge that had collapsed just days before the Commonwealth Games, the media in the national capital had portrayed it as a great achievement. Little do they know, that these ‘wonder’ bridges are a lifeline for the people of the North East. I am only wondering whether the construction of a Bailey bridge will be possible when the bridge over river Barak at Sadarghat breaks down!
It is an absolute shame that a journey of about 330 kilometres from Silchar to Guwahati takes 14 to 18 hours today. In this era of advanced technology, when travelling time between destinations is coming down everyday, we are on a reverse trend where our journey time and the troubles involved is catapulting every year. We leave you with the travelling time of journeys on some other hilly stretches in different parts of the country:

Destinations
Distance
Time Taken
New Delhi to Manali
585 km
14 hours
New Delhi to Shimla
351 km
8 hours
Jammu to Srinagar
302 km
8-10 hrs
Srinagar to Leh
475 km
One and a half days


***The above figures have been collected from various sources. They are only indicative and the time mentioned may vary according to weather and law and order situation prevailing in that area.

9 comments:

  1. while u are having some fun in the intelligent jokes u make...and the people who take this as a ladder to the aesthetic they try to belong to...some international standardization...i hope u kno it does not matter ...nothing goddamn changes...but i am like u too...but i kno the futility of it all..and the hope we have are in the upstart crows who sometimes speak like us..give speeches in varsities and we are their intelligentsia...for a moment... but its all feel good...nothing changes

    ReplyDelete
  2. People of barak valley are sleeping all through the years and politicians like G Roy and Goala are looting public's money. Now Assam election came and again people will vote for GOALA, GAUTAM and other Congress chor leaders. Its time to wakeup and vote for the right candidates. If its not now then never.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do business with ppl of the Barak valley. They are very innocent same as elsewhere in north east india. they are easy going and happy with what ever is their minimum requirement for lively hood. So shrewd politicians of Assam and Center have taken advantage of them and looted all ppl's money. Farther as they do not related much to Assam's natives and more culturally to Shylet of Bangladesh it seems previous govt of Assam have ignored them totally and also their own ministers looted tons of public money. Roads in Silchar and Agartala is pathetic and ppl deserve much better but nobody seems to care or protest. I have seen in north Bengal ppl to protest and road blockade if condition of the road is bad. same is not here.

      Delete
  3. @Sandipan: Change is the only constant. Things have to change in Silchar too, for the better or for the worse. It is on us as to how we want to steer the ship. CFS is just an expression of the frustration that we all share about our home town. But we are also hopeful that this very frustration may provoke us to react and act as well some day.
    @Anonymous: We agree with you entirely that this time we have to put a price tag on the vote that we are going to cast. The party, the stature or the candidate's religion or caste should matter the least. We can hope for change only if we send the right people to the Assembly.

    ReplyDelete
  4. fuck off cachar politics and chor politicians

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Anonymous: While we agree with your sentiments, we would appreciate if you avoid using such unparliamentary language on this public forum.

    ReplyDelete
  6. People of barak velly should think about a change,that might be of a separate state,because u see rest of Assam is compartively developed than barak velly.i had an experience of traveling from hailakandi to guwahati which took 24hrs.could u just imagine???and believe me people here even use to say 'hey u are coming from assam'are nt they well aware that they are nt a part of sylhet by now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Our Ministers of NE states are least bother about National High Way/ Maha Sarak connecting Guwahati to other State Capitals. They are also least bother about the development in NE States. Their children are staying in other metropolitan cities in India for study. They ( Ministers of NE states ) should visits other Metropolitan cities to see infrutactures like Road Comn,Edn Institutions.From New Delhi to Guawahati some limited trains available. One has to thinks for twice/ thrice to go Guawahati and further to other states capital. One can not sure how much hours will take to reach Silchar or other State Capitals from Guawahati via Shillong by Road during rainy season.

    ReplyDelete
  8. HOW EDWARD LOAN COMPANY GRANTED ME A BUSINESS LOAN!!!
    Hello everyone, I am Oliver Johnson Moore from Zurich Switzerland and want to use this medium to express gratitude to EDWARD JONES for fulfilling his promise by granting me a loan, i was stuck in a financial situation and needed to refinance and pay my bills as well as start up a Business. I tried seeking for loans from various loan firms both private and corporate organisations but never succeeded and most banks declined my credit request. But as God would have it, i was introduced by a friend named Lisa Rice to EDWARD JONES LOAN COMPANY and undergone the due process of obtaining a loan from the company, to my greatest surprise within 28hrs just like my friend Lisa, i was also granted a loan of $387,000.00; So my advise to everyone who desires a loan, "if you must contact any firm with reference to securing a loan online with low interest rate of 2% and better repayment plans/schedule, please contact EDWARD JONES LOAN COMPANY. Besides, he doesn't know that am doing this but due to the joy in me, i'm so happy and wish to let people know more about this great company whom truly give out loans, it is my prayer that GOD should bless them more as they put smiles on peoples faces. You can contact them via email on {Jonesloanfinance@yahoo.com} or Text +1(307) 241-3712 and you can view our webpage on https://jonesloanfinance.wixsite.com/loan

    ReplyDelete

Silchar through the Lense