Good Intention, Bad Execution


While the upgrading of Sanjenthong Bridge, work for which is currently underway, has been long overdue, the manner in which this project was conceived and executed, betrays the impulsive and ad hoc thinking of the government. It is sometimes difficult not to believe the Manipur government is bothered about, or else capable of, vision farther than the immediate, and this project has only strengthened this doubt. So very often, witnessing these developments, the analogy that strikes is that of the high school classroom lesson in which poet Kalidas as a boy learns a lesson the hard way when he was given the job of chopping down the branch of a tree, and he did so sitting on it. The Sanjenthong Bridge on the Imphal River, by is far the most important link between Imphal West and Imphal East, and there is unlikely to be anybody who is not happy at the thought this bridge is being upgraded and widened. Because of the ever increasing volume of traffic, this link point between the two bustling districts of the capital city, sharing between them many major government and private institutions, was becoming a traffic bottleneck trying everybody’s patience practically all through the day, every day, round the year. While the intended public good of the project is beyond doubt, it is in its execution a lot is left to be desired.

Since linking the two districts is vital, even while the plan for upgrading the Sanjenthong Bridge was being prepared, the government ought to have thought of ensuring other link roads were at least in usable condition. What we see now instead is yet another instance of the public being taken for granted. Like the boy realizing cutting the branch he was sitting on would be ultimately to his peril, the government too, after blocking off the arterial Sanjenthong Road, suddenly  seems to have woken up to the reality, trying its best only now to make the little used Moirangkhom Bridge road worthy. As expected, the narrow, single-lane, dirt roads which lead to the bridge from either end, now are in perpetual traffic congestions for most time of the day all days. When it rains, the mud slush the traffic ploughs through is a horror, and when it is not raining, the dust cloud the traffic kicks up is not only an ugly sight, but would surely be a major health hazard for those living along this stretch of road. Like this one, there are a number of other bridges linking the two Imphal districts, they all should have been first made traffic worthy before shutting off the Sanjenthong Bridge. Sadly, with perhaps the exception of Minuthong Bridge almost all the other bridges, or their approach roads are still not in any shape to handle an increased volume of traffic.

Beyond mere inconveniences of commuters, shutting off main thoroughfares without adequate preparations have other long term damages which may not be noticeable immediately. If the shutdown is for an extended period, it can spell the death knell for many marginal businesses along the road. Owners of Photostat shops, photo studios, car workshops, grocery stores, vegetable vendors and many more running small businesses at the Palace Gate market will vouch this enthusiastically. Many of them are already agonisingly feeling the slow strangulation. It needs no reminder, in an employment avenue starved State, this is extremely bad news. But what has been done cannot be undone, and there is nothing much more to do than empathise with those adversely affected. Every good thing has a price, but it is unfortunate only they have to bear the major brunt of a project undertaken for the benefit of all. The chief minister, Okram Ibobi, has pledged the new Bridge would be complete by the end of the year, before the popular annual Sangai Festival. Though past records of such government promises would likely make many sceptical, we do hope the government does everything in its power to ensure timely completion and reopening of this vital road.

Meanwhile, the government must also pay serious heed to the Imphal traffic, which was rarely ever well managed. Even before the blocking off of the Sanjenthong road, this chaos was bad, but now it seems irredeemably out of control. Our roads shamelessly are ill made and unable to last out a single monsoon, most of them are without pedestrian walkways, almost all of them have no cycle lanes although cycles still remain an important mode of transport for many, passenger vehicles park wherever a putative passenger waves at them, no vehicle user seems to understand or else care following traffic norms or etiquettes, and at their whims squeeze their way through jams, worsening the chaos in the process, designated parking areas are few and far between… Why can’t the authorities see all these are important factors in determining the quality of everybody’s life in the capital city? Or is it another clichéd case of Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam 


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