By A Special Correspondent
Ukhrul, Jan 28:
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) for the Development of Old Ukhrul Road – New Haven to Tolloi Junction (SH-08) via Lamlang Gate has called for the satisfactory completion of the ongoing restoration of the state highway, without being influenced by any external or political forces.
During a press conference held at Hotel Ice Land in Wino Bazaar on Friday, Happylife Leisan, the JAC’s general secretary, informed that the restoration and improvement work of the old road, which is being undertaken under the Central Road Fund (CRF), had commenced on January 4, 2024.
He stated that the project aimed to cover a distance of 29 km from Shokvao (New Haven) to Talui Junction via Lamlang Gate. He added that the old road runs through a fertile stretch along the Thoubal River, making it a crucial connectivity link for the most populous region of the district.
Leisan emphasized the importance of the ongoing project to the people of the region and urged that it should not be subjected to any political agendas. “We appeal to the authorities concerned to ensure that the restoration work is completed successfully without any hindrances,” Leisan said, flanked by JAC’s convenor, AS Wungnaoyo, Headman Ramva village, Qr. HA. Khayaiwo, Headman of Hunphun/Ukhrul, and other members of the committee.
He mentioned that the JAC has been actively monitoring the progress of the restoration project and conducted an inspection on January 24. Leisan expressed satisfaction with the smooth progress of the work and urged the contractor and departmental officials to maintain the same level of dedication and commitment until the project’s completion.
On behalf of the JAC, Leisan expressed gratitude to Works Minister Govindas Konthoujam for approving the improvement of the road.
He further highlighted that State Highway-08 is one of the oldest highways in the state. However, it has been neglected for over 40 years due to various reasons, including political influences. “As such, all stakeholders came together to revive the lifeline, and thus, the JAC was formed in 2016 by the direct stakeholders of seven villages, namely Shokvao, Ramva, Tashar, T. Chanhong, Lamlang, Pharung, and Hunphun/Ukhrul through the endorsement of the apex civil society organizations of the district such as Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) and Tangkhul Naga Zingtun Longphang (TNZL).”
Leisan further cited the prime reasons for the formation of the JAC, including the state government’s neglect of this road section, corrupt activities by politicians and contractors, and the negative effects of vote-bank politics. He appealed to the authorities to refrain from conducting financial transactions for the ongoing Central Road Fund (CRF) work without first obtaining a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the JAC. He stated that any issues that arise in the implementation of the road improvement work should be settled only in consultation with the JAC as it is the only legitimate body for the local people.
Simultaneously, Leisan urged the state authorities to consider developing the existing road into a four-lane highway for the benefit of the public. He mentioned the proposal made by Ukhrul MLA Ram Muivah in 2022 as evidence of the urgent need for this improvement.
According to Leisan, during his tenure as Secretary of the North Eastern Council (NEC), MLA Muivah, along with Masakhui Rungsung (IFS), High Commissioner to Jamaica, successfully convinced the then Union Secretary of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH), Vijay Chibber, to undertake the improvement work of the road under the category of Economic Importance.
Leisan further disclosed that the JAC brought the sorry state of the road section to the attention of Th. Biswajit Singh, former Minister of Public Works Department (PWD). “He consented to repair the road under the CRF program, for which the JAC is thankful to our minister,” he said.
Additionally, the JAC undertook tasks such as landslide clearance and jungle clearance to facilitate the necessary survey for the road improvement work by pooling its own resources.
According to Leisan, in 2018, a survey was conducted and an amount of Rs. 1 Crore was sanctioned under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH). He recalled that a consultancy firm had already completed the necessary Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the project, which was then forwarded to the state government for implementation.
“This was during the tenure of former Ukhrul MLA, Alfred Khanngam Arthur. And it was later discovered that the fund was diverted elsewhere, leaving the target project unfulfilled,” lamented the JAC secretary.