Kohima: Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Thursday expressed happiness over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Myanmar where he announced assistance for infrastructure development in border areas of the neighbouring country which also includes Naga inhabited areas of Myanmar.
Expressing happiness over the prime minister’s announcement, Rio insisted that it was also equally important to development of infrastructure, particularly connectivity, on Indian side of the border so that economic potential of region could be realized fully.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day Indian Road Congress (IRC) conference, Rio said the Myanmar regional authority on the other side of the border had proposed to develop four border trading points along Nagaland, and accordingly the state government had submitted the proposal to the Centre but no initiative had been taken so far from New Delhi.
He claimed that the Naga people on Indian side of the border was happy with the political recognition given to the Nagas in Myanmar by the new democratic regime there and six Nagas were elected to their parliament in the election.
Stressing on the need to develop the historic Stillwel Road and improvement of the existing national highway to Kohima, the chief minister insisted that if India’s Look East Policy has to see light of the day, infrastructure development in border areas on both sides of Myanmar is a must.
Referring to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s announcement of converting the existing Dimapur-Kohima road to a four-lane one, the chief minister regretted that although nine years had past since that announcement in 2003 at Kohima, the Centre was yet to fulfill that commitment.
Expressing happiness over IRC’s decision to hold its 197th conference at Kohima and bringing large number of technocrats and bureaucrats to the event, Rio hoped that the delegates would understand and appreciate the special problems and needs of hilly terrains of the North-east while one talks about good infrastructure.
Rio said since Nagaland has a single airport, only eight km of railway link and no waterways, it completely depends on surface connectivity and he expeted much from the IRC conference which has scheduled a complete session on "Hill Roads and Landslides."
Stating that the road is the face of the nation and it reflects the level of development and the standard of living of the people, the chief minister lamented that "many a time, special problems of the region get overlooked in the corridors of power in New Delhi."
He said while India has made impressive achievements in terms of economic growth during the last nearly two decades, infrastructure deficit has been a continued concern and constraint for faster growth in the north eastern region.
Highlighting major challenges faced by the state in quality road construction, the chief minister called upon the IRC to ponder over and search for suitable technology necessary for the highly rain fed hilly terrains which experienced frequent landslides devastating the roads and bridges.
Although the quality as well as the coverage of the road network had improved in recent years, there were still big regional variations in road infrastructure, he maintained.
He pointed out that with higher priority being given to more commercially viable projects, the less commercially viable but equally important requirements of small states like Nagaland often got ignored.
Similarly, since the smaller states of the region have limited resources and largely depend on the Centre, commercially viable projects under PPP mode were yet to take off here, Rio said.
"It is surprising that despite India being one of the main producers of highly qualified technical manpower, we have not yet found a reliable technology to deal with the special road construction problems in the North-east," Rio regretted.
Inadequate funding for maintenance means that the state was not able to tackle the problems of faster wear and tear, caused by difficult terrain and heavy rainfall, he observed, pointing out that the life of a newly constructed road is much shorter.
"We need to work out state specific norms, and financing mechanism to maintain roads for a longer period," the chief minister insisted.
IRC president and Gujarat additional chief secretary P N Jain said the Congress has carried out research on construction in hostile terrains and new technologies are available with it and those would be discussed during the conference.