IMPHAL, November 9: The Barak Bridge which is one of the three bridges acting as the backbone of the National Highway 37 (Imphal-Jiribam) is in a deplorable and wretched condition.
Several portions of the highway in between Makru Bridge and Jiribam are also in similar conditions.
Starting November 7, a five-member team of the Highway Truck Owners’ Welfare, HITWO and the Manipur Drivers’ Welfare Association, Imphal led by the latter’s general secretary Mutum Tomba Singh and accompanied by a team of Imphal-based media persons inspected the highway and the bridges before returning to Imphal on November 9.
On reaching Barak Bridge around 3:30pm of November 7, the team found a cement loaded truck (MN 01 8764) coming from the Jiribam side stuck in the middle unable to proceed further due to the dilapidated condition of the bridge.
A 2nd Manipur Rifles team led by its assistant commandant Oinam Chaoba Singh escorting the trucks from Jiribam was also seen nudging workers of the BRTF to change the missing screws and bolts of the bridge and tighten those which had come loose.
Speaking to the media team accompanying the transporters from Imphal, Chaoba said his team had left Imphal along with around 400 empty trucks for Jiribam on October 27 and started on their return journey from there on November 5 after loading the trucks.
He lamented even after two days, the trucks are yet to cross the Barak Bridge because of the condition of the bridge.
He said everyday after 6pm, personnel of the 67 Bn CRPF E Company guarding the bridge don’t allow loaded trucks to cross the bridge whereas each truck takes around 2 minutes to reach the other side.
All trucks crossing the bridge had to proceed in first gear in a slow and steady pace, he continued.
After every two truck, the screws and bolts of the bridge have to be checked to ascertain whether any were missing or had come loose, he lamented.
He said it is not only the condition of the bridge that slowed down their pace, but there are also several portions along the highway in between Jiribam and Makru Bridge which were in the same dilapidated condition.
This can be confirmed by the fact that it took them two days to reach Barak Bridge from Jiribam, he added.
During the return journey they had to stop for a night at Nungkao, he continued.
At the same time, it could be witnessed that the condition of the Barak Bridge was in a frightening state.
Several of the side bars of the bridge were found hanging loose. The hangers of the bridge were also found tightened by GI wire at several places as the original wire had broken off.
Several of the wood decks of the bridge were also missing and replaced by logs and tree branches from the nearby hills.
It may be mentioned that a parallel hanging bridge was constructed next to the old bridge by the BRTF. Soon after construction was complete, vehicular traffic were allowed to upon the bridge.
However, when only two loaded trucks were crossing the bridge, the metals attached at the base of the bridge broke off resulting in the bridge to bend sideways. Following the incident, the bridge has been closed down.
It is also learnt that with the two other remaining bridges- Makru Bridge and Irang Bridge being iron bridges, people have started to get wary of crossing them.
As of the road condition, the stretch from Makru Bridge to Jiribam is in the worst condition. It is not only potholes but the dust which is causing much nuisance for the drivers. The dust stirred up by a passing vehicle is such that it is impossible to follow the vehicle except for wait and allow the dust to settle first.
During the tour, on November 8, the general secretaries of the two associations met with the commander of the 765 Border Road Task Force, Hq, Uchathol and submitted a memorandum asking to repair the road and the bridges.
However, it is leant that the officials of the BRTF including the commander told the team that there is no fund to repair the Barak Bridge at the moment and instead asked the two transport associations to take support of the people of Manipur for the repairing works.
There were also reminded of an earlier instance when the Works department of the State government had laid wood decks for the bridge.
The BRTF officials also asserted that it has been seven years since they received any funds for road repairing.
The transporters team was also told that even if the BRTF wanted to extract stones and sand from the roadside for repairing of the road, the locals deny them to do so.
The media team accompanying the two transporters body on the tour was denied to attend the meeting between the BRTF commander and the two general secretaries.
Meanwhile, last night, the transporters body submitted a memorandum to the additional SP, Jiribam sub-division, Imphal East Menjor Singh highlighting that the five check/entry posts in the sub-division is quite too many and needs to be reduced.
It was also highlighted that the truckers are not only paying more, but stopping five times to make entries is also quite a hindrance for them.
The memorandum also identified that along the 8 km long road stretch in Jiribam there are check posts at Leingangpokpi, Gularthol, Foreigner gate, Jiribam Thongkhong and Jiribam Police Station gate.
It further highlighted that each truck including escorted loaded and empty trucks are charged Rs 200-300 by police personnel in each of the five check posts on a daily basis.