| A stretch of the road at Tousem division in Manipur |
Calcutta, Feb. 12: It is not unusual for a campaign to be on a social networking site now. But a campaign that Facebook takes note of has to be remarkable.
What shook the Facebook headquarters in California this time was the Great Indian Road, the dream project of young IAS officer Armstrong Pame.
When Armstrong, sub-divisional magistrate of Tamenglong, faced a paucity of funds for a road connecting Tousem subdivision to Tamenglong and Haflong in Assam, Facebook came to the rescue.
Pame took it upon himself to construct the road with the help of volunteers from the area, as the project had got caught in bureaucratic red tape.
His brother Jeremiah Pame, a professor at University of Delhi, stepped in, creating a group in Facebook for the road. Support swelled fast, with the campaigners garnering almost Rs 20 lakh for the project.
Thanks to the group, people from all over the world — Canada, England, the US, Israel, Kuwait, Belgium, Norway and other countries — contributed to the cause.
And this made Facebook sit up and take notice. As part of a project to document the “extraordinary use of the social network”, Peter Jordan, film producer at Facebook, commissioned filmmaker Arpita Sinha in Delhi to make a documentary on the effort. After Sinha was contacted on January 19, her team went up to Tousem subdivision to find a teenager with a Mohawk haircut beside a Naga elder in traditional attire, both hard at work, building a much-needed road in the biting cold. Their unbeatable attitude was the stuff of legends.
“There was the sheer joie-de-vivre. People of every age came forward to help. They worked for nearly 10 hours every day, often walking for two to three hours to reach the site,” she said.
“Amazingly, there was no trace of bitterness or complaints at the lack of government support. The people were happy to do their bit, in spite of adverse weather conditions and abject poverty.”
Armstrong says with a smile, “The team thought I was crazy at first but they found out the workers are even crazier.”
The documentary is likely to be uploaded on the Facebook stories site in a month, Sinha added.
The road is scheduled for inauguration on February 16 with an international bike rally.
Bikers from all over the world will participate in the rally, which will start from Tamenglong, Dimapur and Haflong and meet at the road on Saturday.
The final destination will be Katangnam village where the inaugural stone will be unveiled on Sunday.
“Now that the road is complete, I am overwhelmed at what love for humanity, power of unity and the zeal of the people to improve their own lives can bring about. So many people in these villages will start experiencing a new life,” said Armstrong.
He expressed gratitude to “everyone involved — the people in the field slogging it out everyday in the jungle, those working all night to gather funds, those spreading the message to bring more people into the project and to everyone who prayed silently for the success of the road”.