By Rajkumar Bobichand
From a common man’s perspective, the efficiency of transportation and good road connectivity including internal road network are very important for economic development of a state. The ultimate goal of transportation is accessibility. Increased accessibility, which means a reduction in travel time, money or risk required for reaching resources and services, increased productivity. Increasing transport system efficiency provides productivity and development. For an efficient transportation system of a landlocked part of the world like Manipur, construction of well connected roadways is very important. Without construction of well connected roadways, there cannot be an efficient transport system. Quality and well connected roadways and efficient transport system are inseparably linked. It is meaningless when either one is missing.
Well connected roadways network and efficient transport system together can be considered as one of the means of physical connectivity rather than the connectivity through electronic and telecommunication media. This physical connectivity not only plays a key role for economic development but also acts as the backbone of good governance. Even if this connectivity fails to help in the economic development of a state due to other reasons, it can certainly help in other spheres of governance. If there is no governance, how can we expect integrity?
It is apparent that transportation planning decisions can affect economic development in various ways – as an input to economic activities (shipping, business travel, the delivery of services); which affects production and distribution costs; through productivity, employment and profits of transportation-related industries; on consumer expenditures and their economic impacts; on people’s ability to access to economic activities (schooling, employment and shops) and therefore engage in economic opportunities; on the cost burdens imposed on different activities, groups and locations; through impacts on location and land use development patterns. Transportation planning decisions also affect the connectivity and integrity of the state. When there is no compulsory state transport system to connect remote areas, disconnection between peoples and places start. Private transporters want to run on only the smooth and profitable routes only. Disconnections between different groups of people and places of Manipur started when the government transport system stopped plying to different remote places. The government of Manipur does not make private transporters service the remote places. Therefore transportation planning is very important particularly in the case of Manipur. To make the transportation planning viable and fruitful, construction of well connected roadways is a must.
One simple reason of construction of roadways is to connect people from different parts of the state and to interact with one another for various purposes. The better the connectivity is the better social and economic development of the state. This is ultimately responsible for the all-round development of a state. Though various roads had been constructed in Manipur which had been merged with India 63 years ago, there is no proper maintenance and repairing of the roads. So, the prevailing roadways in Manipur cannot act as a means of connectivity between different places and people of the state. Rather the worsen roads disconnect the people of Manipur. This is again hardened by the absence of public transport system in Manipur. Forget about efficient transport planning and system. Manipur still do not have a proper planning public transport system which is the key for connectivity between different groups of people and places of Manipur.
Now, one very simple but pertinent question crops up. Is Integrity possible without connecting and interacting between different places and groups of people? As there cannot be hills without valleys, there cannot be valleys without hills. The same is true about the integrity of a state. Without connectivity, there cannot be integrity. The hilly terrains of the state are not the reasons of taking longer time for reaching different places of Manipur. The reason of taking longer time and risky travelling between different places of Manipur is the absence of well connected roadways. For example a person living in Mao takes more than three hours to reach Imphal while the person can reach Kohima town without taking much time easily. And naturally the people living in Mao look towards Kohima instead of Imphal because accessibility is the key-factor rather than the cultural affinity. Why should it take longer time if the roads are constructed properly and well connected? Why the Imphal-Tamenglong Road via Kangchup is forbidden? These are few examples of disconnections of people and places of Manipur due to ongoing roads and transport policy of the government. A number of roadways in Manipur seem to be constructed from the defence perspective instead of people’s need of connectivity. Disconnections are more in the interiors of Manipur. As there cannot be governance without connectivity, there cannot be integrity of the people of Manipur. As there are no interactions between different groups of people and places of Manipur, there are mistrusts. In the midst of mistrusts with the absence of basic governance and connectivity, there cannot be a common vision. Without a common vision, how can there be integrity? It would be absurd to talk about peace and development where there are not well connected roadways and efficient transport system. Talking of coexistence and harmony by mouth without connectivity and interaction is a farce.
Now there are many challenges before the new Transport and Works minister of Manipur towards the integrity of Manipur. The more important of construction of roadways is the need of paradigm shift. People centric planning is the need of the hour. Connectivity and Integrity must go together.
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