SILCHAR, July 8: A central team of engineers and experts from the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways was on a two-day visit of the valley recently to see for themselves the condition of highways and roads about which public complaints had been enormous. The media reports from time to time have been hammering on the methodology of construction work for their repair and improvement and often questioned the basis of spot examination the utilization of funds received from New Delhi under various schemes.
The central delegation led by chief engineers, SK Varma and Nripendra Nath Deka as well as regional officer of NH division, Amarendra Kumar, at the instruction of the director general of the ministry, C Kondoswami, was here to make an on the spot assessment of the quality of work and to find out the truth or otherwise about the allegations of civil society that various anomalies and irregularities existed in the utilization of funds allocated by the Centre.
Though there was no press-briefing by the team members, a source said that they expressed their displeasure at the tardy pace of work and also its poor quality. It naturally brought in the question of utilization of funds. They laid stress on keeping a tab on the progress and quality. The impression that the team gathered after going round the highways and roads was that there was hardly any monitoring and that there was no coordination between the officials in Delhi and Dispur. The team expressed the views while interacting with the NH and PWD officials that there was need for strict monitoring of work to ensure quality for the sustainability of the roads and highways.
The fault line was with implementation, the team members pointed out, the source added to say. While ensuring proper utilization of funds, it was essential that there should be maintenance of quality and completion of the works within the time frame. It is to be recollected that in 2005 the Centre allocated Rs 33,500 crore for north east under Special Accelerated Road Development Project (SARDP) for the improvement and expansion of 10,000 km of roads. It was to cover 88 districts including the three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi.
In order to oversee the implementation of roads under SARDP, a three member team of chief engineers from the ministry was formed. It was to visit the areas taken up for road connectivity, improvement and expansion under mega road project. The team was formed as a part of the project management unit because the ministry apprehended that massive funding might go waste and it was based on the ground reports from its own sources. But, the information is that the project management unit is yet to be formed to keep itself posted with the development in respect of the state specified roads.
The three member central team headed by SK Varma, chief engineer, according to a source, made an on the spot study of Silchar-Haflong road, NH 44, 53 and 54 which were in bad shape and raised many questions in respect of their maintenance and sustainability. The team during their meeting with BRTF officials and engineers expressed their displeasure at the condition of NH 54 that connects this town with Aizawl. Lack of funds was attributed by them as the main cause of its poor shape.
The team also discussed with PWD officials on how to revamp the road connectivity, create better infrastructure and accelerate pace of work, considering the strategic location of the valley, the gateway to the states of Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur. Barak bridges at Sadarghat and Katigorah, Malidahar bridge over Baleshwar on Assam-Meghalaya border and the proposed second bridge over Barak near the town to connect East-West Corridor also came under the ambit of discussion.