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Deplorable State Of NH-53 Fails To Dampen Spirit Of Truckers

IMPHAL, Oct 1: Even as the condition of NH-53 has been deteriorating day by day like a terminal illness, transporters have not changed their mind to use it instead of NH-39. Certain portions of the 222 Kms long highway which has been under the care of Border Roads Organization (BRO) for the last 40 years have gone from bad to worse. Any one travelling along the route would find NH-53 covered with mud slush as deep as the knee. Buffaloes wallowing in the waterlogged soggy portions are a common sight between Barak Bridge and Makru Bridge which are 60 Kms apart.

In many other portions, the highway has sunk up to the level of the waist or neck deep trenches. Trucks stuck in these trenches were seen pulled by either bull dozers or excavators. Any new observer would find it hard to believe these are parts of a National Highway, the so-called national property. Talking to media persons, president of the Transporters’ and Drivers’ Council Manipur (TDCM), Hijam Ranjit said, ‘You have seen the condition of the highway. It is extremely bad. There is no use elaborating it.

‘Though the condition of the highway is extremely bad, our drivers and helpers have no qualms travelling along Imphal-Jiribam highway’, he said. H Ranjit has been staying near Kambiron since September 27 to pull up loaded trucks stranded there. He said that they brought along three excavators and many spare parts like crown, joint cross, axle as well as rice. They estimated that pulling up the stuck trucks might take six days. But they were ready to stay there no longer in case their task cannot be accomplished within the estimated period.

Stating that the decision of the transporters not to take NH 39 has not been changed, he, nevertheless, accepted that some trucks have been travelling along NH 39 in a stealthy manner. ‘We overlooked this defiance considering the acute shortage of essential commodities due to economic blockade and other reasons’, the TDCM president said. Saying that they have not taken any decision to abandon NH 53 despite its extremely bad condition, Ranjit reiterated their demand to repair the highway to a serviceable condition, if not to the level of a modern highway.

Truck driver Loitongbam Robindro who has been stranded near Kambiron for the last 15 days said that drivers and helpers have been enduring extreme hardships all these days. ‘Here, one Kg of rice costs Rs 40. In addition to the escalation in prices of other commodities, some of the transporters have fallen sick’, Robindro said. ‘While thinking how to reach Imphal, we have missed Id-Ul-Fitr. However, arrival of the TDCM team has given us some hope’, said Md Rajen from Hatta, another truck driver stuck there.

With ration supply running out days before, security escorts (MR or IRB) have been sharing with the transporters whatever food items they have, Rajen said. Lapses on the part of BRO in the construction/repairing of the highway are responsible for the current pathetic condition of the highway. It is questionable if the funds sanctioned for maintenance and development of the highway were misappropriated.

A PIL has been lodged at the High Court in this connection, conveyed Rajen while appealing to all the people residing alongside the highway not to pose any disturbance to transporters travelling along the route. Notably, the Imphal-Jiribam highway caught public notice only after ANSAM imposed economic blockade along NH 39 for 52 days in 2005.

But the public as well as the State Government fell into their earlier slumber until UNC woke them up with a much longer economic blockade in the past three/four months. With little improvement witnessed in the intervening five years, it still remains a big question how many years the BRO would take to develop NH 53 into a modern highway.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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