About a decade back, a friend of mine, who stays in Sonai Road, would often boast that his locality had the best road in Silchar town. He would also proudly claim that Sonai Road was also immune from routine problems such as floods and water logging.
|A blockade at Sonai Road by angry residents|
So, what has gone wrong in Sonai Road in the last few years? Why an arterial national highway connecting Mizoram, a state of the Indian dominion, with the rest of the country has been allowed to deteriorate so much that even the residents staying along side this important road are now considering shifting to other localities of the town.
The answers to these questions lie in two important developments that have taken place in that area in the last few years – the indifferent attitude of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) towards the condition of the road and indiscriminate urbanisation of the areas around Sonai Road without any focus on the drainage infrastructure.
There was a time when the residents of Silchar used to consider the BRO a model organisation. People would often say that the inefficient state PWD officials should learn from BRO the art of properly constructing and maintaining roads in a heavy rainfall low lying area like Barak Valley. However, just the opposite seems to have happened. The BRO seems to have learnt from PWD the art of constructing poor quality roads and then not maintaining them at all!
The problems regarding Sonai Road started in 2007-08 when the decision was taken to double lane the highway. Tenders were floated and contracts were awarded. But sadly after five years, not much work has been done barring a few stretches here and there. On top of this, BRO also stopped the routine maintenance work of the road with the excuse that the highway was to be double laned in any case within a few years.
The local leaders also do not bother much about the plight of the road as they have a ready excuse that the highway is a centrally maintained road and the state government cannot do much about it. On the other hand, the BRO officials also are not scared of any pressure created by the MLAs and the state ministers as their bosses sit in far away Delhi who have many more important things to do then to bother about the condition of a road in God forbidden Barak Valley. Unfortunately, the two MPs we have from the valley have no influence or stature in Delhi to make the BRO top bosses sit up and take notice.
The problem of water logging was not so rampant in Sonai Road about five to seven years back. There were enough low lying agricultural fields around the road where the water could go during the rainy season. However, large tracts of agricultural land have been transformed into residential areas by unscientific land filling with no importance given to drainage. There are innumerable dingy lanes around Sonai Road where there are practically no drains.
The administration, all this while, expectedly, was sleeping. Acres of low lying fields were being filled up and the canal which passes through Sonai Road and Hailakandi Road was being encroached upon by the residents of the area. The drains that did exist were never cleaned up either. The problem that we see today is entirely man made and both the administration and local residents are to be blamed for the woes that the people are facing today.
The indifference of BRO and the local administration is extremely disturbing as, apart from being the main connection to Mizoram, the road also houses important and prestigious educational institutions such as the Holy Cross School and Radha Madhab College where students come every day braving the terrible road condition.
The Jana Jagaran Mancha, an NGO from the area has taken up this problem vigorously. They have organised innumerable blockades and dharnas to invite the attention of the local administration but the response so far has been feeble. Silchar MLA Susmita Dev has taken initiative to get the canals cleaned in the area but the real results are yet to be achieved as the road and the adjacent lanes are still getting water logged within hours of heavy downpours.
Sonai Road Unnayan Sanstha, another body from the area has announced an indefinite blockade of the road from tomorrow demanding immediate redressal of the problems faced by the people. Let us hope that this time the authorities wake up to the woes of the people.