A face-saving exercise

Moa Jamir


On the heels of hosting the 4th Northeast Connectivity Summit 2017 in Kohima (September 22-23), the Nagaland Government is slated to host a ‘Colloquium on Road Connectivity’ this week.


Under the theme, ‘Together We Build,’ the conference at State Banquet Hall, Kohima on October 10, has invited almost all the stakeholders in Nagaland, including all present and former legislators, departmental heads, civil society organisations, contractors and companies, churches, media and so on.


“With an aim to improve the road conditions of the State, a colloquium to collectively evolve a strategy for better implementation,” the Chief Minister announced on Twitter.


Given the state of affairs, it will not be groundless to assert, it is a clever face-saving strategy for the current government with the upcoming election in mind. There are two chief reasons to justify the assertions.


First, it will be part of the election manifesto of the current party in power despite doing nothing during the current tenure. It will show as if they have done or indented to do something.


At another level, if the current government lost the election, it will serve as a basis to attack whoever comes next.


Such assertions are not baseless. For instance, the Nagaland Vision 2030 quoting the state PWD informed that there was altogether 16 National Highway passing through or in Nagaland – 4 existing NHs, 5 newly declared NHs and 7 approved.


Apart from NHs, the State has over 11000 km of various types of important roads, which connect districts to sub-divisions, villages and agriculture/ horticulture areas.


These roads which are to be maintained by the State PWD, according to the Vision 2030, will need Rs. 300 crore per annum for maintenance.


The allocation for overall maintenance of existing assets including roads was a mere Rs. 85 crore in the State Budget 2015-16. The Revised allocation for roads in the subsequent State Budget 2016-17 was even lesser at Rs. 58.38 crore.


Again, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH), Government of India had, in April 2008, initiated a mega road development programme in the North East region under the banner of the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in North East (SARDP-NE).


Sanctioned in early 2011, it has 4 sections covering 6 districts but has been plagued by controversy since then. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India Report this year has also glaring irregularities in the implementation of the Special SARDP-NE in Nagaland State.


The report was given silent burial in the State Assembly. Consequently, complaints about bad roads are heard from every corner of the state. If the condition of the roads in the commercial capital Dimapur and state capital Kohima is bad, it is not for the faint-hearted in other parts of the state.


The ‘Colloquium on Road Connectivity,’ whatever the intention may be, must establish a definite roadmap to resurrect the road condition of the state. Any strategies adopted must be binding on the current and future dispensation as well as all stakeholders for the common welfare of citizens.