The Roadblock to Development
Road is perhaps the most talked-about topic in the state because of unprecedented delay in completion of several projects or government’s plan to build roads or the lack of both. While the indifferent attitude of successive governments towards transport and communication development in the past has cost the state dear both in terms of access to remote areas and trade, deadlocks between the landowners and government department over land compensation have been obstructing various developmental projects in the state of late. Reports of landowners, organisations and villages objecting to construction of roads in their jurisdiction are not uncommon and it appears to be increasing with several projects being initiated by the Centre as well as the state governments to address the deplorable road condition and connectivity issue. Some projects are stalled even before taking off because of environmental clearance and land issues. But delay in land acquisition, mainly caused by disagreement over the amount to be paid to the landowners as compensation, leads to delay in work as well as cost escalation. This problem exists across the country but it affects hill stations more because road network is almost non-existent in remote areas and even the existing ones get easily damaged by frequent landslides caused by rains. To avoid this problem, a transparent mechanism regarding land compensation needs to be formulated.
Road is no doubt one of the most important infrastructures for economic growth, sustainable development and enhancement of human well-being. Improvement of freight and passenger movement will boost trade and commerce, enable the people to access quality healthcare services and create employment too. Nagaland badly needs to bridge urban-rural road infrastructure gaps to enable the farmers transport their produce to cities and beyond. However, fair compensation should not be denied in the name of infrastructure development. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, stated that the Collector having determined the market value of the land to be acquired shall calculate the total amount of compensation to be paid to the land owner (whose land has been acquired) by including all assets attached to the land. It gives the provision to include the values of all immovable properties like forest products, crops etc. while determining the compensation, which varies with the market rates in different locations. The authorities should ensure that landowners are paid fair compensation. In the meantime, the citizens should not create unnecessary problems and delay the completion of projects that will enhance their lives. Unhealthy practices like construction of makeshift houses and installation of immovable assets on the sides of roads in the hope of receiving compensation should not be allowed. It will not only obstruct development but also incur heavy losses to the state’s exchequer. Such avoidable roadblocks to infrastructure development should be removed to pave way for sustainable economic growth and for common good.