NH-37 back in the limelight

WITH oil tanker drivers deciding to ply on the Imphal-Jiribam section of National Highway-37, the highway stretch is set to hit the news headlines more frequently from now on, in case authorities concerned could not ensure proper maintenance of the route. Apart from the transporters of petroleum products subsequently yielding to the pressure mounted by armed miscreants, who have been targeting the oil tankers, the evolving situation has demonstrated yet again that the Imphal-Dimapur section of NH-2 continues to be dominated by unlawful activists. Though it remains to be seen to what extent the government could ensure full-proof security measures along the NH-37, which too is not immune from acts of arson and harassment to drivers, the tough stand taken by two organisations of petroleum product transporters had only laid bare that NH-2 is not the safest choice for the transport operators, as was evident from attacks carried out against oil tankers from nearly the same spot near Kangpokpi district headquarters. Notwithstanding the assurances given to representatives of the two associations by top security officials and the latter promising to provide more security escorts as well as establish a permanent security post at a particular place close to Kangpokpi town, the transporters making it clear that they would not ply on NH-2 indicates that the government assurance to pay adequate compensation in case of fatalities suffered by the transporter operators or damage caused to the vehicles cannot be equated with one’s life.

For the past many years, NH-2 had been in poor light regardless of condition of the said route comparatively better than the Imphal-Jiribam road. As the former route has been prone to different forms of disturbance, people of Manipur are left with no option but to rely on supply of essential goods brought through the Imphal-Jiribam stretch of National Highway-37 regardless of its condition hardly seeing any significant improvement in-spite of the change in the government. With those responsible for developing or repairing the highway making it a point to cite onset of rain season as one of the reasons for lack of progress in proper maintenance of the route it could be safely concluded that nothing much could be achieved out of the Rs 22,000 crore special package announced by the Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari weeks before enforcement of the election model code of conduct for the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly polls. It is learnt that the Rs 3080 crore earmarked for improvement of the 220-km long Imphal-Jiribam line, out of the total amount of the special package for 19 infrastructure development projects, was the highest amount. Accepted that rainy season hinders road development work but the prevailing inclement weather condition cannot be made the excuse for failing to at-least mend the many potholes that become the defining feature of the route. As heavy vehicles do not face any serious problem in plying along roads which are not blacktopped, priority needs to be on filling the crater-like potholes and strengthening the weak bridges so that the past distressful problem of acute shortage of essential commodities do not resurface to haunt the public again.

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