Driving Out of Manipur, Part-B on NH-37 (OLD 54): Aan, Why Can`t We Think Like This?

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By T. Vunglallian
I. ‘Life’ first, then ‘Life-Line’
In Part-A of this essay I had called the Imphal-Dimapur (Manipur Road), NH-2, our ‘shameway’. i call NH-37 our ‘horrorway’, with its future bleak, and the chances of it getting even worse very high. Especially, if it continues to be handled the way it is being done today. 

Reason? ‘Blow hot, blow cold’, with umpteen interferences, appears to be the type of handling this NH is getting. By that i mean, that for the past year and a half there’s just been ‘too many cooks’ who, proverb-proven, have ended up ‘spoiling the broth’, viz. the highway to Jiri.

Significantly, this ‘broth’ is not just a highway for truckers and buses to transport goods and passengers, and so be called a ‘life-line’ that many at the ends of the road want to make of it. Truth is, it is more than just a ‘life-line’. Because, to the people through whose hills and dales the road cuts across deeply, it is nothing less than ‘life’ itself.

The first priority, thereof, should be that the people of this long neglected region be fully enabled to build their lives around the road … long before you and i who live at its ends dictate terms! In stead, they – the local hill-folk and the road itself – should depend on each other so much and their stakes become so high and intrinsic to their lives, that they shall do anything and everything to keep traffic open (and in great condition) forever! Then, and then only will NH-37, naturally and automatically serve as a proper ‘life-line’ for you and i far far down the line.

Otherwise, the unpleasant thought is: NH-37 becomes important only as and when NH-2 (Imphal-Dimapur section) has trouble! And only then begins the chants: ‘life-line’, ‘life-line’ or ‘rasta banao!’ ‘Banao!’ We should have learnt from 2005 onward that chanting is only a knee-jerk reaction, and does not a highway make.

* NOTE: Please bear with this repetition: If some can call a NH a ‘life-line’ and think, therefore, it is very important, then such thinkers also have to have the heart to concede that even an inter-village path … that is a ‘life-line’ to a village …  is also very important. In fact, the importance is more ‘very’ – to the power of ten – because that god-forsaken village probably has no other ‘alternative’ whatsoever (except, of course, in the future, in the form of that elusive helicopter! Haha!) Whereas, the NHs have a fair number of alternatives, including something that villages never have, like media reports that could inject action from the concerned authorities, among others.

In truth, in an un-thought of way …  we are all lucky that the folks in god-forsaken villages have not the numbers and clout to call a blockade to air their ‘insignificant’ grievances! The pity is that they cannot call blockades to demand that their inter-village paths be made all-weather, that their teacherless-cow-shed-schools function, that their decades old and toppling electric posts cannot be strung with wires anymore, and … Who listens?!

And so, would i be too wrong to construe that ‘life-line’ chants are made loudest and most by those who, in reality, least need to actually use the so-called ‘life-line’ road! Whereas, in comparison, the local hill-folk who physically live along and around the NH-37, actually use the road … walking, doubly bent under cane baskets stuffed with organically grown vegetables … just to take back polished rice, refined sugar, gleaming iodised salt and … While convoys of groaning loaded trucks kick dust on their faces and pump diesel fumes into their lungs!

Would it, therefore, not be true that if we looked after their pitifully small needs and inconsequential ‘lives’ …  then our ‘life-lines’ would be open all the time? It appears our priorities have been all wrong. Hence, my attempts to right many a wrong …       

The Need of the Hour

This writer now realizes: If Manipur wishes to turn a real ‘horrorway’ into a ‘national highway,’ the hitherto active valley-based civil society bodies should immediately take their eyes, minds and hands off anything to do with NH-37. They should, instead, concentrate on ‘building bridges’, literally, everywhere and with everybody. Their change in focus would let the local people to whom the road is ‘life’ itself take over the actual making of it. The ‘local hill folks’ could do the following:-

The ‘local hill folks’ of Tamenglong, its elected representatives and district officials/GOM, along with the BRTF and the Army – all  in very close cooperation, like a civil version of an ‘unified command – should work out a 3 to 4- year-long long-term general plan of action. This GPA should start with stocking of essentials, creating buffer reserves in key locations inside the district. The GPA should then centre around a system of controlled traffic management. The gut feeling of this writer is that with controlled traffic the main and actual work of making NH-37 a top class national highway can go on un-hindered. And can be achieved once and for all. Thus-

1. BRTF only: First and foremost the NH-37 should be handed over – COMPLETELY – to the BRTF. This must include the 39 km long Khongsang Village to Tamenglong District HQ road section, so that, among others, the steps suggested below can be planned and put into effect in toto.

2. Controlled Traffic System: The CTS means: Monday, Monday night and Tuesday (36 hours) for Up Traffic (Jiribam-Imphal) only, and Wednesday, its night and Thursday (36 hours) for Down Traffic (Imphal-Jiribam) only.
The idea is, use the road for 4 days and nights, and for the next 3 days and nights – Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, all 72 hours – let the BRTF work all-out, day-in-day-out, come sun or shine, summer or winter. For this they and they alone, have the resources, skill and experience. Additionally, the BRTF could get a good amount of work done, even on the 4 traffic days, because one lane could always be worked upon, simply due to what turns out to be ‘one way’ traffic movement, up or down. Sounds simple enough to implement, if there is a will.

3. Gate System for efficient traffic flow and security: To regulate the traffic flow, the controlled traffic system should have several strategically and logistically located Gates-cum-villages on the route. Beside fixed gate timings these Gates would have highly mobile units of Public Relations, security, medical and workshops. These would do travelers and users of the road a whale of good. Obviously, bells and whistles, flags and their disciplined flag-wavers, walkie-talkies etc. would be called for, and, again, all these are in the realm of BRTF experience and know-how. Co-ordination with security forces would further ensure day and night travel 100% safe too. In other words, traffic should move convoy-like with military precision and order.

4. Enriching local ‘life’: Also, at the said strategically, logistically and ideally located  villages on the highway – and as part of, let’s call it ‘The Tamenglong Life Mission/TTLM’ – the district administration could encourage the setting up of modernised local people’s  version of eateries and conveniences. Let’s call them, ‘dhabas’. (My reason is given later).  In fact, the administration could link up with several other departments/ agencies to select, train and finance a crop of young, educated-unemployed local entrepreneurs in the requisite  hospitality services. They would get assured business for four days and nights in a week  for the duration of the controlled traffic system. In a way, un-hindered ‘protected’ business  for 3-4 years could give the local hill-folk entrepreneurs the critical leg-up to enable them  stand on their own feet, and even branch out by the time things are ‘liberalized’. In this way, at long last, lives would be made anew, and life-lines would be permanent.

5. Ensuring no shortages in Tamenglong (while still being a ‘life-line’): Tamenglong  District would need to maintain an efficient liaison office at Silchar to ensure that the district never suffers shortages of any kind. If some crisis does occur, the close co-ordination between the district administration, local people and the BRTF (and security forces) could easily re-arrange the systems under its control to ensure the district does not suffer. The controlled traffic system also makes complete sense for the ‘life-line’ requirements of the rest of Manipur, thereby leaving the active civil societies to concentrate on what is, actually, more vital for the State … the building of bridges amongst all communities.

6. Reducing private vehicle use through ‘The Tamenglong Life Mission’: Another necessary step to make the whole system work efficiently would be the need to curb ‘local’, or ‘outside’, private vehicular movement, particularly on the fixed non-vehicular movement days (that too definitely for a period of 3-4 years). Enough publicity from 6 months in advance would help immensely.

To enable, however, its denizens to travel within and outside the district at fairly subsidized rates, it is suggested that the Centre provide at least 100 buses to Tamenglong! Funds? If the Centre, under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission/JnNURM, can gift quite ridiculously out-of-place and frightfully expensive low-floored mile-long swanky buses to Imphal city, there shouldn’t be any problem, whatsoever, in providing a hundred plus high ground clearance, short-to-medium-bodied modern district-type buses to Tamenglong … at the other end of the ‘renewal mission’ scale.

Further, these buses should be run and managed by local women SHGs, as part of The Tamenglong Life Mission/TTLM. The idea is that these SHGs, while continuing with their traditional family, farm, field and forest mini-trades, should now be guided and trained to run modern enterprises, starting with, let’s call it HITS/ Hilly India Transport System. Picture these women SHGs breaking out into new ventures – in keeping with the times – and matching the youthful crop of educated-unemployed trained to build and make a new life in hospitality, and other related services.

Yes, let NH-37 enrich and change the lives of the marginalized folks of the region, if necessary through a 5-10 year protected trade ‘understanding’. These folks deserve that. Manipur, nay India owes it to them!

7. Helicopter service: Here, one recalls that once much talked of ‘helicopter’ service that one no longer hears about. i thought and still think it is a ridiculous idea under normal circumstances. However, now, under the controlled traffic system, and till the highway is made fully operational, a helicopter service would come as a boon.

If at all it becomes a reality, one has to rule out Pawan Hans due to its poor flight safety record. One has in mind an extension to civilians of the region of an Army-Air Force-BRTF ‘courier’ helicopter service. This could operate only once a week, on Saturdays, and whenever medical and disaster management emergencies arise. Costs should be written off as part of the ‘courier’ service, or borne by NEC.

II. Past & Present :: Reminiscences & Thoughts

I remember that from the mid ‘70s and early ‘80s i did travel on the Imphal-Silchar road, six to seven times, always as a squashed and squeezed sardine in short-bodied MSRTC buses.

Then in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, i made the journey a dozen plus times in a red Maruti 800, en-route Aizawl, Shillong or Guwahati. i have fond memories, though the road to Jiri was nothing to write home about … or, on second thoughts, should that be many things to write about, because each trip was uniquely trying, and an adventure in itself.

On that lonely road i even drove once, all by myself, to fetch my 72-year old aunt from Fulertol/ Hmarkholien, across the Barak and its then creaking suspension bridge. On the return trip – just the two of us – i remember my sweet late aunt, taciturn by nature, uttered all but three sentences in 290 km! The gist of her utterances was … why is the road so lonely?

Yes, one recalls that those long drives were extremely lonely ones that one completed, from Lamka to Silchar, in 10-14 hours, with a landslide or two thrown in during the rainy season. 10 hours was possible because, simply, there was hardly any traffic and so the road was pretty OK. And, come a landslide and the BRTF assigned did pretty quickly – without anyone breathing down their necks – muster up the required men and machines to expertly clear the slides. Nonetheless, the main thing was that it was a very long lonely drive, so much so that- (a) one started getting careless about road manners and safety, like keeping to the left and honking before corners … till a near-miss with an un-expected up-traffic jeep jolted one into carefulness, along with several fistfuls of abuses. And yes, no one got down to exhibit road-rage (b) A picturesque Noney-on-Barak, or even the Sub-Divisonal HQ of Nungba, could not boast of decent tea joints, forget good Manipuri rice hotels. In many ways these little things told us that Tamenglong was – and probably still is ‘outermost’ Manipur – a punishment posting for government servants. And worst of all, a punishing life for its denizens … for no fault of theirs!

But, all said and done, from the lonely drive point of view, the least trodden existence and the utter loneliness was its beauty, sort of.

In other words the traffic then was not heavy enough to scratch the surface of the road and reveal the ugliness beneath. Today, laden trucks and so-long-bodied buses make clutch-and- rubber-consuming wheel spins … digging desperately for traction, only to sink deeper. These have exposed a ‘horrorway’, hardly fit for travel, and completely unfit as a ‘life-line’. All in all, it simply is yet to qualify as a good highway. Not necessarily only in the quality of the road surface, but more so in the ‘health’ of the road! To me this ‘health’ can be gauged in simple but more real terms.

A: Dhabas declare ‘Healthy’ Highways

Being a good eater, i recall very clearly that NH-53/37 was so lonely and so less traveled upon that good Manipuri Rice Hotels or busy-as-a-beehive Bihari tea joints were simply missing. For a simpleton like me who lives to eat, the degree of gastronomic deprivation, or its provision is a very good indicator to the real health of a road, especially highways, both national and state!

At this point i would like to draw attention to what i think is the best indicator: It is a huge parking area filled with trucks, blessed with low-walled water tanks, basic toilets, a hand-pump … and blaring music bursting forth from a long hut where reigns a Sardar offering maaki dal, mattar paneer, mutton-do-piaza, hot tandoori rotis and a couple of charpois under the trees. Such dhabas, invariably plonked on highways, out in the middle of nowhere, are a simple but true measure of how good and ‘healthy’ a road or highway is!

Based on this criteria, the number of sardarji-run dhabas would give the road an accreditation of B++. Whereas, in our region, a Manipuri Rice Hotel, with the inevitable Bihari tea hotel would, at best, rate a lowly D. The reason for this pretty huge difference in grades is that Manipuri Rice Hotels (yummy!) and Bihari Tea Hotels are invariably located near, or at the beginning or end of a small village. Whereas, the sardar’s dhaba could be all alone in the middle of nowhere … through which the highway roars 24x7x365 through! Anyway, the bottomline is: a National Highway Assessment & Accreditation Association (NHA&AA) should take into account the presence/ number of 24x7x365 open ‘open’ dhabas to rate India’s highways and roads. (This needs a Smiley or two).

Interestingly and gastronomically speaking, the Assamese have taken to their own version of the ‘dhaba culture’ in a big way. Drive any which way, for at least an hour or so out of Guwahati – or out of any of Assam’s cities/big towns – on any of their main roads and, sure enough, you will find several low-cost bamboo structures with colourful signboards announcing dhaba this-or-that with their fancy names. Usually, most are garishly painted, un-sophisticated clean eateries where even whole families come to partake of special delicacies amidst the belting out of songs … as if it were Bihu-time, 365 days of the year. Life in these dhabas start late in the day but go on till about 9 pm on weekdays. During week-ends mid-night and beyond is not unusual! A sure sign of ‘health’, especially compared to our situation.

For the rest of the north-east, barring Sikkim and Meghalaya, the absence of these dhabas – including the typical Axom version – goes to say many things about the overall condition, security and ‘health’ of our – especially, Manipur’s – roads/highways. In fact, they reveal a lot about the state of the State, as well as sociability of society. Especially in Manipur, where such open joyful places, like dhabas – even if on the noisy side – appear to be disliked by Manipurians … as if we are averse to economical family outings. Or are we that uptight that we do not like to let our hair down, away from the confines of our homes.

Interestingly, and in contrast, many of our roads in and around every town are dotted with countless, small, low-cost huts that name themselves as ‘restaurants’, with each name rosier than the other. The common thing about them is that each one of them seems to be trying to be as inconspicuous as possible … like hiding behind a few, small dark-paned windows that are invariably shut. Just like their never-open front doors … as if we are always afraid!

Notably, one does not come across this peculiar style of ‘restaurants’ in any of the hill districts. And this has nothing to do with fear.     

B: Of Rock-falls and Heroism

Fear, however, on NH-37 came when one suddenly saw a notice: ‘Danger: Rock Falling Area’. One felt most vulnerable when packed right in the middle of a bus because stones and rocks really fell!

In fact i recall that in one of my bus trips, all the passengers were made to get off and walk across such a zone. i, instead, went and deposited myself on the seat across the engine cover. Baffled, the driver gestured me to join the others. For an answer i looked at him with outward nonchalance and a foolish half-grin on my face. A look that i hoped conveyed i was with him all the way. Though, actually, i was trembling like a leaf inside. All this because i had always had a fancy of being a hero, of sorts!

This ‘heroism’ had to do with a lesson i learnt during my college days, viz. during our 1969 (?) Leo Pargial (6,770m) Expedition, organized by our Hiking Club, and what our college team senior, Raza Hasnain did. A deed that stayed with me as one of the most decent and heroic gestures one can make on a road journey.

You see, while all team members got off the truck, rucksacks and all … he, Raza, alone volunteered to sit it out with the army truck driver. We held our breath as we saw the TMB crazily bumping and slithering across the hastily cleared huge landslide that we – mountaineers (!!) – were scared to negotiate even on foot! The landslide on that high narrow mountain road, almost two-TMB-days out of Shimla and in the Chini Sector, was truly terrifying that cold wet afternoon. Especially, with a foaming, furiously swift Sutlej two-three thousand feet below, whose roar we could sometimes hear when the wind blew up our way. Otherwise, it was eerie, silent and scary.

And that is how i landed up sitting (very pale) with the driver. ‘Pale’ because i soon realized, in an emergency he just had to open his door – bang next to him – and jump out, while i had to scamper back a mile to get to the front door! I also wondered if heroes had Plan B! i had none. However, when the ordeal got over, the driver gestured to a relieved ‘hero’ to continue sitting up front. My pointing to a good seat three rows behind led to an unspoken ‘thank you’ nod from the driver. That was enough to make my day.

During the other trips, being sandwiched in an overcrowded bus, or deep in a sleep induced by the droning engine saw me through these rock-fall zones without a thought. When awake there were other frightful thoughts, like plunging down a deep gorge because of brake failure. Or some disgruntled fellows pushing your bus down with you in it! It can, however, be said that those MSRTC drivers of yore were good and the buses were pretty well maintained.

Zoom to 2011 and the landslide of July 6th that crushed and killed six jawans trapped in a mini-bus, was bound to happen, because the ‘rock fall’ stretches are still there. The tragedy tells that the situation has only worsened, especially with traffic multiplying many times over, compared to my travelling days. What is worse, as highlighted by Hueiyen Lanpao’s 20th July, 2011 headlines: ‘Loose rocks along NH-37 waiting to kill’, is the apathy of the government sitting in Imphal, less than 40 km away from that danger zone! Or, as it appears, is our CEO and his managing directors keeping the action option for only when the BRTF surrenders the road to the state PWD?! (Why do i like hitting below the belt?)

In the meantime one is given to conclude that all drivers are to drive with one eye on the road, the other squinting skywards! Calling for driving skills and nerves not taught anywhere.

C: Drivers Too Need A Pat On The Back

Driving on NH-37 – when it was 53 – exposed us to several dozens of Bailey bridges. These WW-II vintage looking bridges were expertly placed for the shortest crossing possible, over a gushing stream, where the sides of two hills sharply met. The engineers created the least sharp ‘approach’ to and ‘departure’ from the bridges. It was here – far far from the state’s Driving Licence Issuing Authority at Sanjenthong, Imphal – that the skill of a bus or truck driver was truly tested. Did he need to reverse once only, or twice, or even thrice to negotiate the short-span bridge on a V-turn of a hair-pin bend?!

I remember on one return trip i instinctively clapped when the MSRTC driver drove without as much as a check in speed – but for a slick double clutch shift of gears – and smoothly negotiating a particularly nasty and vicious V-turn of a bridge. Those who were awake quizzically looked at me squeezed with four other passengers on the steps leading to the front door. So did the driver who, after the next ‘nature call’ stop, asked me to climb over his seat to permit and enable me have the rare privilege of sitting directly behind him. Upon his little bedding. A rare privilege that made my day and journey.

Whew! I was comfortable thereafter. Mind you that meant another seven hours and a dark seven o’clock arrival at Imphal! Yeah, very comfortable i was … thanks to the driver/pilot, king of the bus and his appreciation of being appreciated. Who doesn’t need a pat on the back?

Come to think of it none of us appreciate the part played by the man at the wheel, and in whose hands we place our lives for hours on end. We just expect him to do his job for which he is paid. True, but as our lives are in ‘his’ hands (‘her’ has yet to come) all day, or all night, we should be pampering him, ‘khilaiying’ him and the TC/handyman. And at the destination say a big ‘Thank You!’ Even tip him/them.

It seems, we of the ‘wa-nomba’ culture are surely failing here! Or, do we think buying the ticket = ‘wa-nomba’? If so, then gratitude is alien to us, and one can’t come up with a straight forward ‘Thank You’ in Manipuri! Whereas, we all need it so so much … both the giver and recipient.

D: A Thought For Drivers

Frankly, i do not know why something meaningful, in every sense of the term, has not been done for our highway drivers, mainly truck drivers and their handy-men … to show we bother, we care, we salute them? It saddens one to realize that the transport associations have bothered more about roads, goods and machines, and as good as think nothing for those who risk their lives, or are stuck in the middle of nowhere for a month? Perhaps, the gods who balance all things give us our problems because we are unfair to the men behind the machines … just as we’ve neglected the people through whose lands our highway ‘life-lines’ are built?

For the men behind these trucks, why can’t there be a government-backed insurance scheme for this most un-organised sector that we rely on so much? Cannot the government, for a token one rupee premium, guarantee H10 lakhs to the next of kin of a driver who dies in the line of duty? And if they survive the period of insurance, the handsome sum assured, with bonus, should be credited directly to their account. (Or, as is wont, have a cheque-to-widow-handing-over-function … with the VIPs grinning beneath gaudy 16’x6’ banners and whirring and flashing cameras. One can tolerate that as long as our drivers and handy-men are cared for.

NOTE: Regarding the insurance, if the government says there are financial constraints, why can’t all we Manipurians create a corpus fund of H10-15 crores (and someone, please don’t embezzle that!) by agreeing to pay a surcharge of H1/- added to our electricity and water bills and every treasury challan? There are so many ways to build a corpus fund if the government or the associations really want to show they care.

E: (Im)Moral Of The Story

It appears, to all and sundry, that all the noise being made by all the cooks is just to enable the long inept PWD to re-take hundreds of crores worth of contract work to build the highway! At least that is the impression i get. That things, however, are not so simple is clear when the May 5, 2011 TSE report said: “State Cabinet okays NH-53 (now 37) takeover, land acquisition”, and, soon after, the local people – through whose lands the highway passes for almost 200 km – are up in arms against the State Cabinet decision. The ‘locals’, it seems, prefer the BRO/BRTF, any-day, to the State PWD! Then, subsequent news reports suggest the Centre prefers to listen to the ‘local’ people and say the BRO/ BRTF shall complete the work by 2013.

The wonder – and sad part of it all – is that it is the Centre (so far away) and not the State Government (so near) that listens to the ‘local’ people! One wonders what happened to ‘of’, ‘for’ and ‘by’. Perhaps that is one of the big causes of so much resentment and growing rift.

F: Rooting For The BRTF

All said and done, i too prefer the BRO/BRTF, any-day! My reasons? Let me give you only one for now, for which i apologise, as i need to go back to NH-2 (old 39) because an experience on it says it all.

The IFP and TSE of Saturday 30th July, 2011 – accompanied by telling photographs – report about 29th Friday’s high-powered team, led by the PWD Minister himself, making an on-the-spot enquiry/ inspection … whatever … of the landslip-prone section short of the Maram Bazar, just below the AR cantonment. Incidentally, it was the same spot where my family, with me at the wheel, and desperately Patkai-College-bound, were stuck at that spot on 7th July, for almost 6 hours, 11:30 am to 4:30 pm!

Why? Because, of all the silly things, a 10-wheeled Tata truck, filled to the brim with MS iron rods was stuck there! After three hours of patient listening to music, a nap and generally just observing the impatience of people, i too eventually trekked to the spot. i took stock, lots of photographs and watched a lone JCB trying to push out the stuck truck! The effort was aided by an aging private Shaktiman tugging from the front. All in vain. I cursed the BRTF.

After an hour of more watching, photographing and admiring the super agility of that brand new JCB and its dexterous driver, i chanced upon a tired policeman and asked: Where are the blue BRTF trucks and their khaki clad officials? Aren’t they coming? He told me that this stretch was not under the BRTF!!

Arre! No wonder we were stuck for so long, was my first thought. Had it been the BRTF they would have been able to muster the required bandobast of men and machines – including a recovery van – to get us all through within an hour! i AM SERIOUS. i’ve seen them in action all over the NE, and on the Indo-Tibet Road in Himachal! i tell you … 90 minutes at the most, especially as that day the rain gods were busy elsewhere. And slip zone was dry!

Had the BRTF been there they would not only have got us out in a jiffy, but with their long experience they would have anticipated and managed the mad rush of vehicles from both sides trying to cross at one at the same time, as soon as the truck was unstuck! Thank God the police from Tadubi and a unit of lathi-wielding CRPF eventually brought some order, and we managed to reach Dimapur by 10 pm.

My second thought was: It is ok if the valley stretch remains with the PWD, but after that it should be BRTF all the way. Inserting a stretch of PWD in the middle is not fair to us travelers, and those who live along the road!

My third thought was: The Assam Rifles at Maram – some smart looking officers and men came down several times to the spot – missed an opportunity, a PR opportunity. They threw away a chance to put into practice their motto that speaks of friendship. i am not saying they should have distributed sweets or water, but they could pretty easily have lent a helping – but firm – hand in suppressing the animal instincts of the long exhausted, frustrated, hungry and desperate drivers/ passengers … when the road was eventually open. True, it can be argued it is not their duty. But life, again, teaches us that voluntarily doing that which is not one’s duty, does sweeten life, if not lessen one’s duty! Tell me if i am wrong.

Fourth, i tend to share the same views as the area’s elected representative, Pu Raina who must be regularly inconvenienced as a regular user of the road … that the PWD there must have failed many times. Because of that, i too read with great alarm, and dismay, TSE’s headlines: ‘NH-39 Set for Realignment Process’, reference that land-slip prone section.  Alarmed and dismayed because a PWD contractor in that time and place was, is and shall be totally – repeat totally – inadequate, no matter how good his intentions are.

I humbly suggest: Let the BRTF re-align and make it completely. The after tip-top black-topping etc. hand it over to the PWD … to do the undo process for a decade!

Here, one must never forget that once the job repair and of providing passage gets done, the contractor has no control whatsoever over the mad rush of in-disciplined traffic. Whereas, traffic control is part and parcel of the BRO/BRTF package. i’ve seen it with my own eyes from Simla to Nainital to Gangtok to Kohima.

I am passionate about this pro-BRTF stance because travel on our roads, i swear, need some semblance of authority to keep it open and flowing. For we have become a people who revert too quickly to our baser instincts … if there are no whistles and periodic waving of red or green flags. In that light lathis, boots and guns – and AFSA – seem but a natural follow-up. Sad but true.

Gastronomically Ending

If my suggestions go the dustbin way, that sardar and his dhaba may never come to Manipur. That would be a pity. And there’d be no one to blame but ourselves.

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