In year 2003, when late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on a three-day tour to Nagaland from October 27 to 29, the inclement weather then proved to be a blessing in disguise for the people of Nagaland. Vajpayee, who had to travel by road along National Highway- 39 from Dimapur to Kohima, literally had the ride of his life, prompting him to announce the project for a four-lane highway between Dimapur and Kohima.
“Speaking of roads in Nagaland, I have to say that I had a first-hand experience yesterday. Mother Nature wanted me to take the road journey from Dimapur to Kohima. I was told that, of all the roads in the State, this is the best. If this is the best, it is difficult to imagine how bad is the worst,” said the late Prime Minister then, during a civic reception in his honour at the Indira Gandhi Sports Stadium, Kohima on October 28, 2003.
His “journey for peace” to Nagaland, apart from the declaring that “Nagaland has a unique history” and India was “sensitive to this historical fact,” and enabling mobile connectivity, the late Bharat Ratna awardee is also remembered for the road project. Stating, “Aami khan sob milikina Nagaland tu bhal korikena bo nabo,” (Let us together build a better Nagaland), among other schemes, he announced that the Centre would spend Rs. 400 crore against widening work at National Highway 39 and “the work will start next year.”
After the normal procedural delay due to bureaucratic red-tapism and other political imperatives, the Union’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs finally approved the implementation of the 4-laning project (42.8 km – excluding Dimapur and Kohima bypass) nearly a decade after the visit on May 23, 2013 as per the record on Press Information Bureau Archive.
In a reply to an ‘unstarred questions,’ the Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, Mansukh L Mandaviya, in January 2018, informed that the entire four lane highway between Dimapur and Kohima is divided into 3 packages. The 42.8 km length, under Special Accelerated Road Development Programme (SARDP) was divided into three packages: Package 1 – stretch from 123.840 km to 138.775 km; Package 2 – the stretch from 138.775 km to 152.490 km; and Package 3 – 152.490 km to 166.700 km.
By September 5, 2017, all the Contractors/Authority Engineers for the particular section have been finalized. As per the contract agreement, Package 1 need to be completed by September 16, 2019; Package 2 by August 2, 2019; and Package 3 by August 8, 2019, he informed.
Currently, excluding the Assam portion of Dimapur Bypass, works are in progress for total road length 50.55 Km according to the National Highway & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL)’s “Status As On 31.07.2018.” The status report stated that physical progress was 41.31% for Package 1, 47.23% for Package 2, and 34.19 % for Package 3.
Given the situation, it is imperative that work should be continued unhindered so as to ensure timely completion of the project. Delays in projects have only costly implications – economically, socially and health-wise. Success of any project demands concerted efforts. The government of Nagaland and the ‘concerned authorities’ need to investigate the crux of the current imbroglio, roll up their sleeves towards achieving the targets, and ensure a smooth passage of the current project.