The road project from Rilbong in Shillong to Tamabil in West Jaiñtia Hills remains a non-starter due to different challenges faced by the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
One of the reasons cited by an official of the NHIDCL is non-availability of land with the contractors, the onus of which lies with the state government. Another is the shifting of utilities like PHE pipes, electric poles, and land acquisition.
According to the NHIDCL, these departments are controlled by the state government and the former does not have any authority over them.
The NHIDCL official also said that some elements beat up the labourers engaged in road construction. “Policemen are standing there but they are helpless. In front of them they are beating the labourers… checking their permit, license and other things,” the official added.
The NHIDCL authorities suggested that when the government is there, NGOs are not expected to enforce the law. The official said that in fact many of the labourers have their licence.
The official informed that one of the reasons is the failure of the local contractors to bid for construction of the road. “Let alone bidding for the main construction work of the road the local contractors are not even bidding for the maintenance of the road they are not participating. So what happens when contractors from Assam of other places they come they face resistance here? Like they don’t get required cooperation and support from the state,” the NHIDCL official said on condition of anonymity.
According to the official had it been any local person involved in construction of the road then things would have been easier.
The official also said that in a month there are seven-eight meetings with the government on the construction of the Shillong-Dawki road.
According to the official every time there is a meeting, the NHIDCL would give a report to the state government with regards to where it has not got possession of land and apprise them of the issues faced by them.
“There were two meetings held with the Deputy Chief Minister every month,” the NHIDCL official said.
On the allegations made by the villagers that the NHIDCL keep on promising them about the road, the official urged them to keep patience adding that work have already started.
According to the NHIDCL, the completion will take time since the process starts with tendering. “Basically they are waiting to see the top most layer of the road (bituminous) immediately. But that would take some time,” the official said.
He also informed that the work order for Phase II have been given last month only even as he added that it would take another month for the contractor to set up their machines and other infrastructure.
The NHIDCL official said that it would not be fair to say that, the company does not care about the people of the area.
The official said that had the NHIDCL had the land and other things there would not have been a situation of foreclosure of work agreement.
The NHIDCL said that if the contractor did not do their work than the former can terminate their contract and impose penalty on them. “But we could not do anything because we could not fulfill our obligation with respect to providing encumbrance free land to them,” the NHIDCL official said.
The road project has five packages. These include Rilbong to Mylliem Marbaniang covering 11.6 km, Mylliem Marbaniang to Wahlyngkhat of a length of 26.55 km, Wahlyngkhat to Siatbakon covering a bypass of 8 km (Pynursla by pass), Siatbakon to Umsyiem and Umsyiem to Tamabil in Dawki.
The NHIDCL official said that due to resistance by the locals alignment could not be finalised for the Pynursla by pass.
The NHIDCL said that it is constantly in touch with state government urging them to try and convince the villagers so that the alignment can be fixed.
According to the official although there are five packages, work has been sanctioned only for four excluding the Pynursla by pass.