The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has informed that repair work has already commenced on National Highway-6 in East Jaiñtia Hills and it is hoped that all the damage caused to the highway during the monsoon season would be repaired by November 15.
The NHAI informed this to the division bench of Meghalaya High Court during hearing of the PIL filed by resident of Umkiang village Kynjaimon Amse.
During the hearing, the State government informed the court that the State PWD (Roads) has already commenced repair of roads in several places, now that the monsoon season is coming to an end.
Meanwhile, Amse complained that a petition has to be sent to the High Court every year in order to get repair of roads damaged by monsoon rains.
Taking note of this, the High Court said that Meghalaya receives probably the highest rainfall in the world and since bitumen is water-soluble, roads take a heavy beating over the monsoon.
“The State, NHAI and other concerned authorities must be alive to this problem so that there is a plan already in place to undertake immediate repair works in the event of landslides during the monsoon and to overhaul the roads at end of the monsoon season, to the extent necessary,” the High Court said.
The court also said that the need to build and maintain roads in a hilly terrain cannot be over-emphasised as it provides basic access to citizens and has to be regarded as an adjunct to the right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“The State, NHAI and other concerned authorities should keep this in mind and plan out their activities so that access is not impeded at any time,” the court said.
The High Court also pointed out that there are several areas in the State, including places as close as within 40 km of Shillong, where villagers do not have access to main roads.
“The situation is worse in some of the western districts, particularly in the South Garo Hills district. With medical and other facilities concentrated around the two major cities of Shillong and Tura in the State, the State administration should ensure that access is available from every part of the State so that emergency and other vehicles can reach from the remote areas to either major city,” it said.
“There is no doubt that to provide access even to persons living in the remote areas of the State, substantial funds would be necessary. However, in this day and age, shortage of funds cannot be an excuse for not providing such a basic right to the citizens,” the court added.
It also said that the State government and other concerned authorities should not treat this matter as an isolated case pertaining to a particular stretch of road, as the observations herein pertain to roads all over the State.
“Let the matter appear a fortnight after the vacation for the State to indicate whether there is a comprehensive plan for increasing the existing road network in the State and undertaking continual repair work to ensure that access is never impeded,” the High Court said while listing the matter for hearing on October 28.