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A pinch of salt, for the road

Calcutta, Nov. 22: It is said man travels around the world to find what he seeks at home.

After the world-wide web, the support for the under-construction Tamenglong-Haflong road, an endeavour of the sub-divisional officer of Manipur’s Tousem subdivision, Armstrong Pame, and his family, now comes through a tradition rooted in history.

The salt project is inspired by a tradition, known as ngam-zeng in Rongmei, ncheilatatbe in Zeme and mateilinbo in Liangmai. According to Zekaingrong Naga tradition, when a family is in need, it distributes a handful of salt on a banana leaf to the households in the area.

Then, according to their capacity and willingness, the people pitch in with cash, kind, or physical work to help out. “We have initiated this salt project to complete the one we began. It basically aims at raising funds but the main objective is mass participation. After all, it is a people’s project,” Armstrong said.

Before this final impetus to funds gathering, Armstrong and his family have used every means to make the project a success. Jeremiah Pame, his brother, assistant professor at University of Delhi, is raising funds through Facebook.

Armstrong took up the initiative to construct the road to connect Tousem to Tamenglong and to Haflong in Assam.

This stretch is part of the 100km road connecting Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. The endeavour is being called the Great Indian Road project.

So far, they have distributed over 2,500kg of salt in the villages of Tousem subdivision, and nearly 3,000kg to the residents of Tamenglong town.

According to Jeremiah, the response to the traditional plea has been as overwhelming as that of the online campaign. He was especially grateful for the contribution from the United Builders School, Tamenglong, where he and his brother had studied till Class X. “It is not only about the road project now. It is about uniting the people. People from different political groups are also working together like never before. They are paying amounts ranging from Rs 20 to Rs 10,000 through the salt project. Now it truly seems like a mass movement,” he added.

Armstrong has begun work to rebuild the bridge across the Makhru river, which was washed away in July this year, as part of the project.

“This road construction project helps revive among the young people the traditional way of selfless contribution towards communal effort for common good in the midst of rampant corruption,” said Shillong-based Gaikhuanlung Gangmei, a contributor.