TODAY -

Roads reflects our society

Yumnam Devjit Singh *



This is the second time I have taken a pen to write about something with conviction. The last time, I did was when I was contacted by Lanngamba Mangang, Publicity Secretary, KYKL. I really didn't know what their intention was, but that was about three years ago.

After completing my graduation in BE Civil Engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), when I got home, the first thing that struck me were the road conditions and I asked myself, why are we using flexible pavements (bitumen roads).

The prices of bitumen is sky high and they last for only 2-3 years at the maximum (if well constructed), and since most of Imphal is reclaimed wetland which is a "No No" for flexible pavement roads there is the need for rigid pavements (concrete roads). Such roads if well constructed with proper joints and design will last for 50 years at an average, and is ideal for moist and clayey soil. Water logging does not affect its strength. Notice the concrete pavement around the new fly over, and you will see it for yourself. It has been flooded numerous times, but it still holds good, whereas the adjacent bitumen roads turn to Uripok lake.

In December, 2010, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram visited Manipur, on the morning of that day my father got a call saying he should accompany the Home Minister in his chopper upto Churachandpur. That night he told me, "Bobo you know what Chidambaram also asked me the same thing ! Why are you not using concrete roads?"

Hearing the words, I felt a bit redeemed. Prior to this none of the people that I spoke to about laying concrete pavements in Manipur took me seriously, all I got was a lot of excuses. Seriously speaking, why should concrete roads not work in Manipur ? It looks like this option is not advisable for the people of Manipur.

The most common excuse is that the cost will be too high. I was not going to be content with such ill informed and half hearted answers. I needed to go into the details of how roads in Manipur are being constructed. I talked to a lot of people about this noting all the points. In the end I contacted Ka-Bikram a family friend and proprietor of HVS Construction Company, the same firm which widened a section of NH 39 and currently working at NH 39 in Thoubal Haokha. I spent a whole day with him at his work site and his impressive factory. The only 1st Class Contractor who truly deserves his designation. The discussion with him cleared all my queries.

The conclusion was very simple, the roads we have in Manipur are a crystal clear reflection of the acts of the government we have in Manipur. The continued use of bitumen roads even though it is found to be unsuitable is a reflection of the government's outdated approach to construction of roads in Manipur. The repeated construction of roads and digging up of roads in different places is a reflection of the inability to coordinate action in the different departments of the government.

The poor performance of the engineers in design and quality control of construction projects is a reflection of the serious shortage of well-trained manpower and utter negligence of the salary and promotion of engineers. And last of all it is we, the people who are responsible for what we get. Our acceptance of the quality of roads that we get and the kind of governance we get has led to the perpetration of the system.

Solutions are simple, there is a need to create a body that plans and coordinates the works of PHED, PWD and electricity and the telecom departments. Every major city has a development board. It's time for Imphal to get one too. There is a serious need to review the set up of PWD, PHED and Electricity Department to ensure timely promotion and performance reward systems, which would in turn lead to high standards of infrastructures for the public.

Everybody knows that contract works are always taken by people with high connections. I feel there is nothing wrong about this as long as quality of work is maintained. Poor quality of work means open daylight robbery. One thing I say to my brothers in arms, nobody as a group is more important than the all of us. The only people capable of doing something is the respective group each contractor represents. If they instruct their contractors to maintain quality and insist on the technical expertise of the engineers it will be for the good of all.

And lastly, we need to introspect why our society has become so weak. Einstein once said 'We cannot solve a problem with the same level of intelligence with which we created it." So we as each individuals need to improve ourselves and own collective responsibility to bring about an improvement in our society.


* Yumnam Devjit Singh wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on February 08, 2011.



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