The Telegraph
Thursday , November 29 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi’s rally ardour strikes wrong chord in region

Guwahati, Nov. 28: Those associated with Delhi’s spirited effort to make the Moreh-Guwahati national highway “traffic worthy” for the Asean Car Rally, 2012 have called for similar “response and concern” towards maintenance of other equally important roads in the region to usher in real development.

To start with, the Union ministry of road transport and highways has sanctioned Rs 4.5 crore exclusively for repair of the 243-km stretch from Lahorijan to Kaliabor in Assam, besides Rs 1 crore each to Manipur and Nagaland for road repair and safety measures such as adequate street lighting and signages.

Financial assistance apart, the international cooperation division of the ministry has also been in constant touch with the chief secretaries/ principal secretaries (transport) and nodal officers of the three states seeking information /status reports about the road condition along the ro-ute. They have sought details about road safety and the infrastructure facilities and procedures along the route and rest venues for safety and security of the participants and officials accompanying them.

Those associated with the repair exercise have appreciated the Centre’s proactive approach towards conveying a progressive image of the region. This is in accordance with a decision taken during a ministry of external affairs meeting on November 14. But at the same time, they also pointed to other critical stretches on national highways 38, 37 and 31, which are in need of immediate repair or strengthening.

“We had sought Rs 36 crore two months back to repair the damage suffered by the highways during the floods. We got an allocation of only Rs 14 crore when we should have got the actual sanction in October so that the required repairs could have been done before the rainy season. What we manage on our own is temporary/emergency repairs but that is not enough. About 300km of roads had been damaged in floods but we have received only Rs 64 crore against a request of Rs 100 crore for periodical repair. After the sanction, another two months are required to award contracts, leaving us with barely two-three working months — just not enough to finish the work in time and to ensure quality,” an official said.

Another official said eve-nts such as the Asean car rally were important but connecting the missing road links and proper maintenance of all existing national highways was equally important for the Centre and the Northeast. “Priority has to be given to both to usher in real development to make the Look East Policy meaningful. Cosmetic chan-ges alone won’t help.”

Among other routes that need immediate snaction of funds for maintenance/upgrade are the Dholla-Sadiya stretch on NH37 (where a bridge was washed away during this year’s floods), Digboi-Ledo stretch on NH38, Saldubi-Baxirhat stretch on NH31 in lower Assam and the NH37 stretch between Numaligarh to Dibrugarh. All these are a part of the proposed Asian Highway.

The Asean car rally will be flagged off from Jakarta (Indonesia) on November 25 and will pass through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar to reach Guwahati on December 16 after covering 7,448 km.

The concluding ceremony will be held at Sarusajai Stadium here on December 17.