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Roads and prosperity

If reports of the Union Surface Transport and Shipping Minister having made an assurance to members of the State BJP recently to sanction Rs 15,000 crores for expediting the development works of the national highways in Manipur is true, a report that this local daily was one of the first to carry, then it is good news for the people of this long beleaguered state.

“American roads are not good because America is rich, but America is rich because American roads are good.” This paradoxical yet profound statement attributed to former American President John F Kennedy lays stress on the socio-economic development that developing the infrastructure of roads could achieve. Nitin Gadkari, the Union Transport Minister credited for creating one of India’s first express highways – between Bombay and Pune – and also responsible for the landmark Bandra-Worli sealink project apparently loves to quote this statement.

The National Highways Connectivity Company Ltd (NHCCL) which was set up specifically for upgrading and widening national highways for regional connectivity in the North-east region by the new government at the Centre will start developing the national highways in Manipur on a war footing from October to coincide with the proposed visit of the Union Minister.

Even if it’s too early to say whether the Union Minister will be able to deliver on his promise of completing the development of the highways within six months but he certainly does exude a sense of commitment and urgency to get things done which is entirely missing from politicians of the State.
The proposed completion of the national highways in Manipur by handing over its development to NHCCL from the Border Roads Organisation is welcome but nobody has mentioned anything about the security risks that travelling in these highways pose. The government also must address this security challenge by setting up a Highway Protection Force, an idea which has long been doing the rounds.

Closer home, the building of smooth asphalt district and inter village roads without bumps and potholes is the responsibility of the Public Works Department. Many major thoroughfares in Imphal are in deplorable conditions. They take the appearance of dust bowls in summer and are a nightmare to commuters during the rains. People are so used to this state of affairs that they have forgotten to demand what is rightfully theirs. It is within the powers of the State PWD to rebuild these long dilapidated roads and create better ones. The usual response to such questions is that the government doesn’t have the financial resources to do so. An alibi simpler than that would be hard to find. But we continue to believe our Ministers and elect them back to power again and again.

Now coming back to the Union Transport Minister, a post-graduate in commerce with a law degree and a diploma in business management, he enjoyed the reputation of implementing ambitious projects and completing them before time at extremely low costs during his tenure as the PWD minister in Maharashtra. It is worth asking why is it that our State elects only semi-literate politicians whose idea of being elected representatives don’t go beyond earning a few fast bucks by using the powers bestowed on them.

Leader Writer: Svoboda Kangleicha



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