Updated on 7 Jul 2021, 3:34 am
Makru Bridge (Photo: SocialMedia)
THE RCC bridge over Makru River constructed by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Ltd NHIDCL is now ready for inauguration and the tentative date for inauguration by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is on July 8. The NHIDCL has also informed the Chief Minister N Biren Singh that the RCC bridge over Barak River shall be ready by September 21 this year, according to his posts. Foundation stone for another important RCC bridge over Irang River on the Imphal Jiribam highway was laid by the Chief Minister on December 2 last. Now, all that remains is the treacherous highway where many parts are still in a bad shape. The Chief Minister seems to have a good rapport with Minister Gadkari as the latter had always been quick to sanction the proposals of the state government for highway development and its bridges. Right from the days when he was an editor N Biren was leading the campaign for development of the Imphal Jiribam highway. Everyone felt the development of an alternative lifeline other than the Imphal Dimapur road because of the frequent landslides and economic blockades. But, the bridges over Barak, Makru and Irang Rivers on the highway were unreliable as it were bailey bridges. Now, with RCC bridges coming up it is a dream come true for N Biren Singh.
Imphal-Dimapur road (NH 2) and Imphal-Jiribam road (NH 37) have always been a rallying point for politics by certain communities doting these national highways and a pressure point for raising of all kinds of demands and grievances. The other two national highways seldom comes in the limelight. Manipur being a land-locked state highly depends on the highways for ferrying in food and all other goods including essential items, which is exactly why highway blockades have become a bargaining chip for groups who have an axe to grind with the state authorities or holding it to ransom for realisation of their demands howsoever petty it be sometimes. Besides, during the rainy season frequent landslides happens because of the soil conditions in this part of the country. In the past, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in charge of the maintenance of the Jiribam highway then was the villain. Now, NHIDCL has taken over the responsibility of the highway, and at least some changes in highway management and road condition could be seen. But, voices crying foul of the new agency as well are still there. Yet, one must not forget the services rendered by the agencies handling the highway during the extended economic blockades imposed by Naga groups and more recently in bringing home thousands and thousands of state natives from the Jiribam Railway Station, after the pandemic broke out across the country.
Works for construction of Pucca bridges over Barak and Makru was begun in right earnest and completion was promised in early 2021, but there are always hiccups on the way. The November 1 collapse of Irang Bridge was indeed a tragedy and once again certain groups were calling into question the management of the highway. Some voices were even dubbing it as criminal negligence on the part of NHIDCL for not maintaining the highway properly. But, thanks to NHIDCL and the Indian Army for resumption of traffic on Imphal Jiribam Road in record time and also to the Ministry of Roads, Transport and Highways (MORTH) for sanctioning the RCC bridge over Irang River. Yet, the political debate over the development of the Jiribam highway now trending in the social media has become rather disgusting. While we must learn to appreciate the works done so far on the highway, one should also desist from exaggerating the claims of development.