Sunday, March 3, 2024

Govt apathy, harassment by youth delay road projects

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, Dec 4: Low tempo of infrastructure development projects in Meghalaya which is an old malady, has been aggravated of late due to strange indifference of the administration and constant interference caused by myriad local youth who seek to harass and exploit the contractors, particularly who are implementing central government projects.
While neighbouring states like Assam, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh are moving at a rapid pace in developing infrastructures and massive projects are taking off on schedule, Meghalaya has remained a laggard due to several local challenges which the executing agencies have been encountering due to alleged apathy of the Government machinery and the frequent interference by certain pressure groups.
The cumulative effect is that there is a time overrun, if not also cost escalation. The central agencies, it seems, are getting demotivated due to lack of support from state government.
Currently, central agencies like NHIDCL, NHAI etc are undertaking various road projects in the state. NHAI is maintaining important roads of the city in addition to the several companies who have been allotted projects are already working here but many of these ongoing road projects are facing huge delay due to peculiar local challenges.
It is no secret that some of the labourers who are working on the improvement of the road from Umiam to Shillong were assaulted by some NGOs and an FIR was also filed with the police. But there has been no police action so far.
When contacted, Shillong Police said that a case has been registered and efforts were on to track down the culprits and ascertain their motive.
Assault on migrant workers is not a new phenomenon in the state, as several incidents have taken place in the past leading to growing reluctance of migrant workers to work in Meghalaya. Many labourers have been pushed back despite having valid documents, it is alleged.
Sources from one of the implementing agencies said that many a time, some pressure group or the other would threaten these officials and forcibly close down the offices, if their diktats are ignored.
“Given these hurdles, how will we work and complete the projects on time,” asked one such technocrat while adding that contractors are disillusioned over police inaction on FIRs filed on the assaults and threats. “We are waiting to see whether or not police would act against them.”
It was informed that in the ongoing Shillong-Dawki project, one of the labourers was slapped in front of the police and the firm has raised their concern with the state government without any result.
“People want good roads and infrastructure in the quickest of time, but the prompt support of the state government is lacking,” alleged an official of these bodies.
Another irritant is that many a time while working on the road projects, the traffic police on duty chooses to stop the construction work for plying of vehicles thereby causing serious impediment to progress of work.  This matter has also been taken up with the concerned officials but to no avail.
“How are we going to work when traffic personnel just stop the work as soon as there is some traffic,” the officials asked rather helplessly.
It was also alleged that they are not receiving proactive support of the government even in matters of land acquisition for the projects.
“Everything is being paid by the Centre and the state government’s only job is to support us administratively but even that is lacking,” another official decried. To buttress the point it was pointed out that it took the state government more than three years to shift the PHE utilities from package-1 of the Shillong-Dawki road project.
“There is no revenue land here and we are totally dependent on the government,” the official said while adding that the work on the package-1 of the Shillong-Dawki road project which started in 2020, was foreclosed since the government could not hand over the land due to delay in utility shifting.
“In other developing states like UP, the government and district administration work in tandem primarily for ensuring early completion of the project. Nothing of that sort is seen here and as a result projects here are already running much behind schedule, another official pointed out.
The question is: Will the government do its bit for timely completion of these vital road projects which are also causing enormous inconvenience to the motorists and public at large?

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