The Road Less Travelled

There is definitely something poetic about the phrase, ‘˜The Road Less Travelled,’ maybe even romantic, laced with the right dollops of the mythical. We do not know the genesis of this phrase or who strung up these words so beautifully but taken purely in its literal meaning, National Highway-53 is definitely one of the roads that is travelled less and there is nothing poetic or romantic about this reality. It is a harsh reality but the irony of the whole thing is, the State Government seems to come to its senses and see the importance of a second lifeline, only when there are some disturbances on NH-39.

Chief Minister O Ibobi may rant and fume and point fingers at others, especially the Border Roads Organization, for the shoddy conditions of NH-53, but the Chief Minister cannot escape from the responsibility of turning this National Highway to a never ending stretch of slush and mud and shaky bridges. The summer of 2005 should have been the ideal lesson for the Chief Minister, when the State reeled under the heavy impact of the 52 days economic blockade imposed by the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur, but no Mr. Ibobi remained satisfied with just making sure that he is safely perched on the chair of the Chief Minister.

The then Governor of Manipur, Dr SS Sidhu had personally gone by road to inspect the repairing works taken up along this route at the height of the economic blockade. It was a gesture pregnant with meaning. However the importance of the incident, in which a Governor had to take to the road to inspect the repairing work on a National Highway, did not have any impact on the consciousness of Mr. Ibobi and his men. In innings number II too, the original Khangabok man, did not show any sense of urgency, with regard to the condition of NH-53 and it took the 67 days economic blockade imposed by the United Naga Council in the summer of this year and the resolution adopted by the Owners’ and Drivers’ Council never to take NH-39 again, to jolt the Chief Minister and see the harsh reality.

The efforts put in by the Council, plus the voluntary help and aid that came forward from the common people to make NH-53 at least motorable was something not seen for a long, long time in Manipur. The collective efforts brought back memories of years gone by, when every young boys in each Leikai had to participate in the social service, which involves cleaning the drains and nullahs. The generous contributions by the Municipal Councilors of each Ward, ensured that the boys wound up their evening with a good and hearty meal. This is something not seen now and in fact it has become so rare, that many local clubs and organizations think that conducting a social service in their locality is news worthy enough to make it to the pages of the newspapers. If Manipur reeled under the 52 days economic blockade in 2005, then the 67 days economic blockade of 2010, certainly presented a very contrasting picture. We guess it has got something to do with ‘Acclimatization’ and far from being reduced to a whimpering lot; the people went about with their chores as if everything was normal.

It is at times like this that the best of a people comes to the fore and the people of Manipur have demonstrated more than once or twice that they have developed an inbuilt system to face any inconveniences and more importantly they know who to target, whenever the question of Greater Nagalim pops up. This also means mastering the art of articulation and so far, the people have shown that they know how and when and where they should articulate their thoughts.   From the 52 days economic blockade in 2005 to the 67 days economic blockade in 2010, the State has seen some interesting developments but the most interesting part is the indirect fall out wherein, the attention of the people, the State Government and Delhi were drawn towards NH-53.

Today we have the Director General of the BRO assuring in front of the Union Home Minister that NH-53 would be made motorable by February next year, while other necessary works such as black topping and whatever is required of a National Highway would be in place by 2013. The Centre has also reportedly kept aside Rs 300 crores for the repairing work of this National Highway. This development can be seen as Delhi slowly but gradually waking up to the situation in Manipur every time something goes wrong on NH-39.

During any blockade or bandhs along this stretch, it is the students and loafers in the guise of blockade supporters, who have a field day. The students, because their importance in the eyes of the public has just got a face lift, especially the office bearers, while to the loafers, it is the ideal moment to indulge in a bit of goondaism, take stone throwing practices and generally go on a spree of destruction and cry foul and whip up communal sentiments, if and when the cops resort to any action against them. It is against these attributes associated with NH-39 that the State Government and the Centre have centered in on NH-53 and it is high time they did so. The fact that the DG of the BRO gave the assurance that NH-53 would be motorable by February next year, during a high level meeting chaired by the no-nonsense P Chidambaram, gives us that glimmer of hope. Harsh reality is something very different from romantic or magical phrases that come out of the fertile minds of writers and poets. Let the action start on NH-53.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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