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Op-Ed

WHY FOOT HILLS ROAD? (Peoples’ Unity Road)

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By EMN Updated: Aug 17, 2013 2:27 am
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TN Mannen | Hotongse Sangtam

A good all weather Road connecting Tizit (Mon) to Dimapur then to Kelma (Peren) along the Assam-Nagaland boundary line is the top most long unfulfilled felt-need of the whole Nagas especially the inhabitants of ENPO districts, Mokokchung, Zunheboto, Wokha,Dimapur and Peren districts. This is needed on many compelling reasons. Briefly:- 1) It will relief the innocent Naga travelers from avoidable harassment of subjecting them to checks and searches on every trivial matters that are taking place often while travelling through Assam especially when there is skirmishes along the border areas..
2) It will ensure smooth uninterrupted movement of passengers, goods and materials in and out of Nagaland that are frequently disrupted by Bandhs, curfews, Rasta Roko, pickitings, Road-Blocks Etc. on Assam-Nagaland Border areas and Kabianglong in all along the entry and exit points to Nagaland causing constant losses in economy and inconveniences to normal life of people.
3) Avoid victimization by threats, assaults, arrest and harm meted out to the Nagas travelers for any incident in Assam-Nagaland border areas. It is frequently happening due to inordinate delay in settling the boundary dispute between the two states. For lack of alternative convenient route to reach Dimapu-Kohima, conveniently most Nagas travel through Assam. This vulnerability is fully exploited by unscrupulous people of Assam.
4) It will open new opportunities for new Economic; entrepreneurial development along the most potentials foot hills plains having fertile soil, rich mineral and forest resources. It will open a good outlet to productively engage many Naga youth, who are competent, knowledgeable and ready but lack of appropriate opportunities and avenues. In the near future many thriving Dimapur like townships will come up along this road. The economic- zoning which the state government is contemplating can come up along this road.
5) But most of all, it will bring mental relief and satisfaction to the Nagas for getting the most needed connectivity that provide an alternative route saving travelers from uncomfortable and unsafe feeling of passing through Assam.
After Nagaland state was formed, the demand for a road along the Assam-Nagaland boundary areas was mooted and was approved for central funding. It was Assam who blocked its implementation with the lame excuse of preserving the Reserved Forest lands located along the border (nine in numbers). Assam has the advantage of free access to those R/Fs as per 1972 Interim Agreements, which is being continuously abuse by Assam violating the agreed terms by which they are to strictly maintain status quo of what it was in 1972 in all those forest lands. But today when Nagas are denied any access, Assam is going all out converting most of the forest land into settlements. One can see through the imagery freely available through the satellites.
Having realized the urgency and importance that will accrue out of opening the Foothills Road (not middle range road) the whole 10 Naga tribes have spontaneously responded to the recent renewed call initiated by the Ao Senden for immediate priority attention by all concern to undertake this need-based task mainly to avoid innocent Nagas exposing to dangers of travelling in Assam in the absence of an alternative road on border line proximity. Showing solidarity and support for expeditious fulfillment of this common goal, a strong Coordination Committee was promptly formed with Ao Union president as convener with representative of Sumi, Konyak and Phom as co-conveners and Lotha as Secretary of the Committee. In a number of meetings of the committee, some positive resolutions have been made with the view to facilitate smooth and speedy execution, such as:-
a) No land compensation in any sector.
b) No taxation from any organization.
c) No diversion or misuse of fund earmark for this purpose.
d) Joint monitoring with the implementing dept/agency to help smooth implementation of the work and to see judicious use of both financial as well as other resources.
e) It was also emphasized not to politicize this project.
A coordination meeting with the border areas MLAs was held on 23.7.13 initiated by Dr Penjung Hon,ble Parl. Secy. Agriculture where 9 members have attended. After a exhaustive discussion on the issues, all members had agreed that no self-interest will interfere in alignment or in execution. The road should go by the shortest distance from one end (Tizit) to the other end (Dimapur-Khelma). They pledge full cooperation and support and repose their trust on the Committee.
As suggested earlier in a meeting with Hon,ble CM and Min. (W&H) and officials on17.7.13, another consultative meeting with the (R&B) officials led by the Chief Engineer was held on 8th August,2013 to tentatively finalize the Road-alignment taking into account the desire and demand of the various tribe at each respective sector with technical compatibility and suggestion of the technical team. Fortunately out of few alternatives brought by the Dept. one which has almost identical alignment (no 8) with the Coordination Committee suggested alignment prepared on the basis of the most felt-need of the people was selected in the joint meeting as consensus choice. This route will go along—Tzit-Naginimara-Tuli_-Tsudikong-YajangC-Sumito-Wozhu-Champang-Yimpang-Bhadari-Govenor’s Camp – Ralan (old) – Rengmapani-Newland-Dimapur (339kms appx). Then to Khelma later. The departmental officials were entrusted to immediately prepare the detail technical report and estimate of the new suggested route and to put-up for formal approval at the earliest.
This is the top most challenge for both the present State Govt as well as the Naga people. But with the coordinated joint practical approach down the line, it would not be so difficult as it looks and made out to be. Accidentally the recent discussion between the Planning Min. Nagaland with the chairman Planning Com. On the importance of Foot-Hills-Road from Tizit to Khelma who has responded positively as reported, is a welcome sign of encouragement. The nodal deptt is also requested to seriously examine to consolidate all earlier investments made so far in pit and pieces over the years in the name of FHR construction by the dept of (R&B), Agri-linked roads, NRGSY, rural roads, irrigation project Rd etc so far. This would optimize the asset created so far in this direction. It is a fact that except in some areas all along this proposed line, some connectivity already exists. Once all these effort made so far are linked a big chunk of construction funding can be minimized thereby the burden can be lightened.
The (R&B) Deptt. now need to prioritize sector wise to take up the work on phase manner by taking up the missing link portion like, the Bridge over River Doyang on first phase. The deptt. of course would be the best judge to decide phasing out year wise.
The coordination committee members are determined to pursue this till it become a reality on the ground. The committee have full confidant on the nodal agency and hope that it will not falter, oscillate or delay in implementing so far the elusive people’s Grand-Road into reality. In the name of Golden Jubilee year of statehood, let this Road project be a common endeavor of the Naga people and elected representative government to fulfill the long cherished unrealized felt-need. Nothing can deter the people awaken determination to get this Road now.

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By EMN Updated: Aug 17, 2013 2:27:42 am