State needs Old Cachar Road & more highways
The historic Old Cachar Road or Tongjei Maril not only deserves ugradation to the level of a national highway. It deserves to be developed as an all-weather highway which can serves as a reliable alternative to Imphal-Jiribam highway and even Imphal-Dimapur highway if the situation demands. The Government has been reportedly working on a plan to upgrade Old Cachar Road to the status of a national highway. But national highway status is not enough for a road or highway to be a reliable and convenient route for transportation and communication. Both Imphal-Jiribam highway and Imphal-Dimapur highway are national highways but everybody knows how reliable they are. Any casual observer knows that both these national highways are highly vulnerable to landslides and their status of being national highway is highly questionable. No doubt, standard highways are being constructed across the North East region. Given the fact that the region is a landlocked one, highways and railways are of paramount importance in the region. But the ongoing construction works are too little and too late. One can never over-stress the importance of standard highways, railway networks and smooth connectivity for economic development of a region. But these fundamental infrastructures are either totally absent or quite inadequate in the North East region, in general and Manipur, in particular. One crucial issue of the region is poor connectivity and the need to improve it. Being a landlocked region, it is heavily dependent on rail and road transport but the region does not figure prominently in the country’s railway map and the highway networks are not up to the mark. Poor connectivity is one fundamental factor for the region’s economic underdevelopment including Manipur.
Of late, the State has been seemingly wooing investors, particularly the corporate sector and it is no secret that the State is over-enthusiastic to promote the tourism sector. But the State’s dismal road infrastructure remains a formidable roadblock to both corporate investment and promotion of tourism. Whereas Manipur is totally landlocked, there are only two highways which connect the State to other parts of India, and unfortunately both these highways are quite prone to different types of disturbances, both natural and man-made. The Government must first deal with these issues before presenting the State as a perfect destination for corporate investment. The Government may start by expediting the railway project and the highway construction works. A landlocked State like Manipur needs not just one or two highway(s) but at least half a dozen which would connect the State with the outside world in different directions. The historic Old Cachar Road or the Tongjei Maril can be one such highway, if properly developed. Today, highways are road to survival. In future, they can be roads to prosperity. This is all the more undeniable in the absence of access to sea routes or maritime trade. Many people have been hoping that the entire North East region is put in the railway map of the country as early as possible but a good highway network is also essential if the region should realize economic progress and transform itself as a growth engine as envisaged by none other than the Prime Minister himself. Improving highway networks is not necessarily in the interest of the region alone. The much talked about Act East Policy (earlier Look East Policy) would never fructify without standard surface transport infrastructure in the region. The Northeast region in general and Manipur in particular occupies a key position in the overall scheme of the Government of India’s ambitious project called Act East Policy on account of its highly strategic location and the policy can thrive only when there is standard transport and communication infrastructure in the region.