Nagaland must implement road maintenance policy, not quick fixes
It is a truism to postulate that the development of a robust network is essential for the progressive growth of any nation, state, or entity. However, in Nagaland, this fundamental necessity either remains a distant dream or a political bargaining chip. As the state enters the final stage of the rainy monsoon, its road networks bear the brunt of inclement weather associated with seasonal wind system, compounded by laxity from the authorities and other stakeholders.
The sorry condition of arterial roads particularly within Dimapur and its surrounding areas is a glaring testament to this issue. The majority of roads within Dimapur city itself are burdened with potholes, and a solution seems elusive."
As one travels upward the national highway-29, the stretch between Chümoukedima and Chathe Bridge is a curtain raiser to the bleak State's road network. On August 10, this newspaper highlighted that the section is also turning into a state of disrepair, with potholes and craters posing a serious hazard to motorists. The concerned authority(ies) responded, covering potholes with soil and stones instead of durable asphalt concrete, in the middle of a rainy season. Needless to say, before a month-time, the road is reverting to earlier condition. Such quick fixes may temporarily appease public concerns or present a optics during an event, but fail to ensure long-term road quality and only exacerbates the problem.
Moreover, the much-anticipated completion of the four-lane road from Dimapur to Kohima remains elusive, with Package-III beset by numerous issues. Similarly, the Kohima-Mao Gate NH-2 road project languishes without significant progress, leaving commuters in a state of perpetual inconvenience.
This raises a pertinent question: If the roads connecting Nagaland's commercial and political capitals are in such a sorry state, one can confidently wager on the status of other NHs, State Highways, Major Districts Roads, village roads etc.
The excuse of the monsoon, frequently used by concerned authorities and stakeholders, can no longer justify their abdication of responsibility. For instance, while most NH projects in Nagaland are struck in delay, proceedings on matters related to road construction in Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench are replete with such excuses.
While the State Public Works Department may contend that works of NHs are carried along with other agencies such as Border Roads Organisation (BRO), National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), it can monitor, supervise or do maintenance.
Incidentally, it is not due to a lack of policy but seems to be rather a failure to implement existing policies effectively. In 2018, the State adopted the 'Nagaland Road Maintenance Policy 2017' to ensure proper road maintenance, yet this policy remains largely unimplemented.
The policy, as usual, is glossy on paper, stating, among others, that road maintenance is essential to ‘preserve road in its originally constructed condition’ and provide ‘efficient, convenient travel along the route.’ Reassuring words like timely and sound maintenance; proper planning, implementation and execution; and supervision and monitoring, quality control etc forms the core of the policy objectives. A constitution Empowered Committee on allocation of funds headed by Chief Secretary is also envisaged. Additionally, the Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has standing policies on road maintenance, including mechanised patching.
Hence, the concerned authorities must to take note of these policies and translate them into action on the ground. Well-maintained roads require concerted effort, responsible allocation of resources, and a commitment, among others, not quick fixes, appeasement and political bargaining.
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