Sunday, January 29, 2023

A history of roads in Nagaland

How our roads were built and maintained in 1880’s by the hands of our great grandparents.
I feel that it is extremely important for us to revisit history if we wish to plan for the future. And in this context, while the country is launching it’s National Logistics Policy, here in Nagaland let us re-visit the milestones of when our first logistics infrastructures were built in Nagaland.

  1. The first ever road from the plains(Golaghat) to Dimapur spanning 90.12 Kilometers was constructed in 1870’s at a cost of Rs. 4050/-
  2. Dhansiri river became the main mode of transportation to the Naga Hills where the Britishers almost abandoned all land transport completely in favour of large boats to transport goods to Naga hills as waterways transport was much cheaper & efficient. The length of the waterways from Dimapur to Golaghat was 192 Kms.
  3. 1873-84, the 64 Kilometers road to Kohima was completed and the 40 kilometers road from Samagutin to Wokha was completed where the labourers were mostly Nagas. The point being – Our great grandparents with no JCBs using only spades (pharwa) & donkeys built 104 kms of road in one year! Compare that with our pace of work in today’s age of machinery and technology, it is clearly evident how self interest over public interest, extortion, demands, commissions, red tapism and greed of a handful of individuals has negatively affected the progress of an entire generation.
  4. The improvement of the main road from Kohima to Golaghat by P.W.D. in 1882-83 was praised in the administrative report.
  5. During that year, 300 mules (Mule is a cross-breed, an offspring of a male donkey and a female horse) were given on loan to DC of Naga Hills and carried 2000 maunds (1 maund = 37kgs) of rice from Wokha side upto Kohima Bazaar.
  6. The road from Kohima to Mao was completed between 1883-84 which apparently had traffic congestion that time (I’m assuming traffic congestion of bullock carts, carriages and donkeys?)
  7. RESPONSIBILITY OF MAINTAINING THE ROAD IN 1880’s was the DC wherein each village through which the roads passed, the villagers were responsible for clearing the stones, trees and landslides.
  8. By 1923, Naga hills had roughly 1182 kms of road and it was becoming difficult to maintain the roads. Repairing costs of the entire roads were estimated at Rs.3042/- but the Govt had only Rs.2000/- allocated to PWD for road repairs. Similar situation we see today even after more than 100 years, the O&M (Operation & Maintenance) sustainability of such projects which need to be collected through toll gates or realised through Road Tax component which we pay during vehicle registration.
  9. THE HIGHWAY TO KOHIMA WAS REGULARLY MAINTAINED ESPECIALLY DURING RAINY SEASONS. Even the Mokokchung sub-division roads were maintained with a budget of Rs.20,257/- But in contrast during this 21st century, we Nagas seem to have regressed and gone further 2 centuries backward than the British times where the road maintenance component seem to be missing big time.
  10. By the time, World war II approached, the need for good motorable roads was realised and the Britishers added 321 kms of roads which led to the unadministered areas of the Naga Hills.
    ROADS played a significant role in connecting the Nagas with the world.
    As time progresses, the lifeline and the most basic necessity for any civilization to remain connected with one another and also with the rest of the world – ROADS. The cost of building roads has become very expensive at this day and age where hundreds of crores are required to build few kilometers of roads wherein the red tapism, self interest over public interest and corruption seem to become a hindrance in providing good quality roads to our people.
    Most of the old great roads of Nagaland that were built and maintained through Govt funding(Collected from tax) and community effort during the time of the British, are turning into ruins and tatters today after more than 130 years but have remained the only nerves that run across our terrains and connecting us to the rest of the country & the world.
    We must find a way to reflect upon history and remind ourselves of how these roads were built and maintained by the hands of our great grandparents and with the money collected as tax by the Government. I hope we find a way to reflect upon our past to re-imagine our present in order to reform our project planning, implementation, execution and maintenance to move towards a truly progressive Naga society in the coming days, not only for roads but using this analogy of building physical infrastructure towards diving into a philosophical inquiry for our Naga solution as well.
    Yanpvuo Kikon,
    Entrepreneur and
    Senior Consultant
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