Roads today are the lifeline of any geographical entity or location in the world. In a global domain of connectivity, they are the backbone for economic transactions and the path through which social and cultural interactions takes place. That roads and highways are a major game player for the people of Manipur has been proved time and again through the various economic blockades on the national highways. Any organization or group with real and imagined angst and grievances in fact tend top take the roads of the state into ransom and in the process validate its integral role on the lives of people. The public ire of residents in the area from Wahengbam Leikai to Oriental College along NH-37 resulting in road blocks in the said road stretch may well be the beginning. The road block enforced by the residents of the area was relaxed only after PWD officials gave an assurance that the road would be completed. After all, the people in the state, has had to content with constant delays over road repairs and construction of other infrastructure meant for public use. Even in the capital town of Imphal, residents had to wait for years on end for the over bridge along BT road to Uripok to be over. Repairs followed this on the Nagamapal to RIMS road that threatened to go on forever. The list of roads being repaired and dragging on for years on end to completed would be rather long considering that we are yet to contend with the situation of roads in other districts as well.
Residents imposing a roadblock in the area that they themselves live speak volumes about the apathy of the concerned departments and the State Government towards the inconveniences that the general public faces while using those roads. VIPs who travel in comfortable vehicles and who do not take these roads daily are just not the best people to be able to identify with the dust and potholes, or the diversions and discomfort. There can be no justification good enough to cover up for the lack of political will and commitment to facilitate better road connectivity in the state. One only has to compare the scale of road or even metro projects in other parts of the country and the way progress is made while also taking care not to hinder the movement of people. Cut to the local scene and road repairs means extended years of ‘in progress work’ and materials to be used in repairs being piled up, thereby leading to traffic jams and dusty environs.
Just last year, there was another interesting story of another road in Tamenglong district, a road that was supposed to materialize under Government funding. Though the road is yet to be fully complete, it has caught the imagination of people across the world and brought in hordes of media as well. Despite a sanction of Rs 101 crores way back in 1982, the road never took off and people living in the area in the remote area of Tousem had only experiences of hardships while trying to communicate or traveling to other parts of the state. Ironically, it took a Government employee, an IAS officer who was the sub-divisional magistrate of Tamenglong and his family, to take a personal commitment to constructing the road. When his family members donated their salaries, it triggered off a wave of donations thanks to media attention and the story going viral on social networking sites. Not a single voice stood out to ask why the Government was not being held accountable for the road not being there. No one asked why tax payers money which had been pumped into the construction of the road had not been used or what had happened of it. The answer would of course have been simple: that people had no expectations from the Government to begin with. The logical thing to do would have been to file a PIL or an RTI inquiring over the central funding for the said road and what work progress was happening. But the logical thing for the people of the area was that they needed their road and they would get it themselves. And therein is the tale of two roads. One self made and the other self blocked and the Government left with mere excuses.