Shillong, Jan. 9: The Rabha-Garo ethnic violence, which is preventing immediate and easy passage to Garo hills through Goalpara in Assam, has raised hopes of early construction of a proper road from Shillong to Tura via Nongstoin, the headquarters of West Khasi Hills.
The Garo Students’ Union (GSU), Khasi Hills zone, has already asked the state government to speed up the alternative road project which will connect Shillong to Tura without touching Assam.
“We have already spoken to the chief minister to speed up work related to construction of the road project to ease the problems being faced by the people of Garo hills who always face harassment whenever the Rabhas call bandhs,” the GSU Khasi Hills zone general secretary, Rondon K. Momin, said.
The Centre recently sanctioned Rs 1,494.48 crore for the project which, if completed on time, will see the vehicles from Meghalaya going directly to Garo hills without travelling to Goalpara.
At present, one has to travel 323km to reach Tura, the headquarters of West Garo Hills, but once the Shillong-Nongstoin-Tura road, connecting Garo hills through West Khasi Hills, is completed, the distance will be reduced to 264km.
Leader of the Opposition Conrad Sangma said work should begin on a war-footing to complete the road project at the earliest.
“Union minister of state for rural development Agatha Sangma has already taken up the matter with Union road transport and high-ways minister Kamal Nath,” Sangma said.
He said Kamal Nath had conveyed to Agatha that the project had already been sanctioned by the Centre.
PWD (roads) minister H.D.R. Lyngdoh said the government was planning to issue the work order so that construction could start at the earliest.
Lyngdoh, who also holds the home portfolio, told this correspondent an alternative road was the need of the hour.
The existing road which was constructed even before Meghalaya attained statehood in 1972 is in a dilapidated condition.
“During the current ethnic trouble because of restriction on movement in Goalpara, we tried to bring in petroleum products but in vain as the road is not motorable for heavy vehicles,” an official with the East Garo Hills district administration said.
Chief minister Mukul Sangma recently said the Centre had sanctioned the road project in December last year, after a long wait.
The 264.30km road will connect Shillong, Nongstoin and Tura and will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 1,494.48 crore.
He said with the completion of the road, the state will have an intra-state highway connecting Garo hills and Khasi hills, the two main regions of the state, with the capital city of Shillong.
Sangma said the road would integrate the two regions as well as two communities, the Khasis and the Garos. According to him this will lead to interaction among the two communities which will help build unity.
The government had earlier decided to complete the road project within three years, but with the pressure mounting, the government is expected to complete the project early.
The state government is also contemplating to institute a project-monitoring committee to ensure speedy implementation of the project.