No Gain - Eastern Mirror
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No Gain

By The Editorial Team Updated: May 23, 2017 11:50 pm

The government of Nagaland has finally declared that it is in no position to fund the so-called foothill road from Dimapur to Tizit in Mon touching all the foothill areas of Dimapur, Wokha, Mokokchung, Longleng and Mon. When the agenda was first launched in 2013, it was one of the most contentious issues for the then newly elected NPF led DAN alliance government. Although the ruling alliance had a landslide victory in the elections conducted in February, there was the impending danger of overspending by the government and the state budget was looming ahead with a huge deficit. To add to the woes the cycle of events led to the demand for the foothill roads into a full-fledged mass movement supported by many of the apex tribe organisations.

Just when some tribes were planning to make the demand for the foothill road and were in the process of conducting coordination meetings, a series of events just turned the tides completely against the beleaguered government. What started as a land dispute between a village in Mokokchung district turned violent resulting in bandh call by the organisation in Assam especially the ones led by the Tea Tribes. Some travellers, not from the border villages who know better but from the more distant areas, ignorant of the closure ventured in to Assam resulting in being manhandled by the bandh enforcers. This incident just spiralled the whole foothill road issue out of control, with tacit support even from some of the government officials. By then the matter became politicised however much the leading organisations wanted to deny it.

Then came the episode where some of the earlier contractors who used to work on the same road before it was christened as ‘Foothill Road’ alleged that the then minister in-charge for Roads and Bridges had demanded money. It was also reported from sources that the government was displeased with the way the project was handled since the funds for it was received in the form of a loan from banks. Due to the intricacies involved in such projects as it is the nature in State it was not openly reported in any media. However it was certain that some dealings went sour and there was a part of the whole story that the public never came to know. Instead the allegations by the contractors even landed some of the leading newspapers in Court. The matter is still subjudice.

One major aspect that organisations especially spearheaded by the Nagaland Foothill Roads Coordination Committee missed out was that the roads also passed through some of the disputed areas of Assam and it would be next to impossible for the central government to clear such projects without clearance from Assam. It means technically the road may have to be constructed beyond the 1925 inner line. The economic loss that Assam would face is also huge and so it will not readily clear such a project to be implemented in the disputed areas. Such practical problem might have prompted the then chief minister to say that the foothill road would be constructed by the money they the state will get from oil exploration. However the government was finally made to release 80 Crores relenting to the demands of the organisations for a ‘jeepable’ road.

In its fourth year, after such huge mobilisation of manpower and money, the government finally had the courage to state that it is not possible to fund the project due to the change in the funding pattern by the Centre. At present, the ‘jeepable’ foothill road as envisaged earlier has become a distant dream and might not even materialise. The only positive outcome as of now is that travelling through Assam has become more comfortable with the Assam government’s positive reaction by banning all check posts along the highway that had become centres of extortion and harassment for commuters.

By The Editorial Team Updated: May 23, 2017 11:50:48 pm
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