Why no braying for NH-37 spruce-up?
FOR the past few days disparaging comments by political leaders against their opponents have been occupying maximum space of state dailies in the run-up to the two-phase 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly elections, for which votes would be cast on March 4 and 8. Among others, the on-going mudslinging game, mainly involving the ruling Congress party and the BJP, are centred on the issues of the protracted economic blockade of UNC on the two lifelines, allegations over institutionalisation of corruption, controversy arising out of favouritism in allotment of tickets to contest the polls, social unrest and socio-economic disparity, with most of tirades directed against the incumbent government. Accepted that the hallmark of electoral politics has been the politicians exhibiting their best oratorial skills with the objective to woo the gathering during the campaign trail and convert them into votes. Out of the five states where assembly elections are being conducted or had ended, Manipur seems to the only one where the campaign leaders can test their lung power to demean the rivals by dwelling on multiple issues. The dos and don’ts prescribed by the Election Commission might be one of the factors that has been restraining the political leaders from speaking out their mind contrary to the public’s expectation that at-least some prominent figures, who are spearheading the campaign for their respective political organisations, make their stand clear on how to bring relief to the state masses.
As politicians continue to concentrate on portraying themselves and their parties in the most palatable manner, they seem to have forgotten that people of Manipur are currently relying on essential goods is brought through the Imphal-Jiribam stretch of National Highway-37, condition of which could be one of the worst of all the national highways. Out of the Rs 22,000 crore special package announced by the Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari well ahead of enforcement of the election model code of conduct, Rs 3080 crore earmarked for improvement of the 220-km long Imphal-Jiribam line is the highest amount contained in the said package for 19 infrastructure development projects. Even though it would be wishful thinking to expect that the BJP-led central government and Congress regime in Manipur will work collectively for accelerating road repair and bridge construction works, both the authorities should never question the people’s yearning to see undisrupted flow of goods carriers on this route. Accordingly, priority in improving condition of road and bridges along NH-37 assumes even more importance on account of the Imphal-Dimapur section of NH-2 gaining notoriety as haven for anti-Manipur elements. Apart from the well-established fact that activists of armed as well as civilians have been harassing the transport operators, especially when there were normal vehicular movement, NH-2 is a known source for minting money of Nagaland police as is evident from numerous check gates erected in between Khuzama village near Mao in Manipur, and Dimapur, which is the largest commercial town on the Nagaland-Assam border. Thus, there is hardly any point on the part of the authorities concerned to exert pressure upon the transport operators for resuming service through one of the most hostile stretches of NH-2 or the political heavyweights continuing to bicker on the economic blockade for the sake of gaining a few more votes than their opponents.