SILCHAR, Feb 7: The demand for revival of the century old parallel alternative to NH 44 has been revived by the people of Barak Valley in view of the frequent mishaps, landslides during monsoon and traffic congestion, besides tortuous hilly terrain and unending curves. In the event of heavy downpours, the highway remains blocked for days due to landslips. In fact, in the past existed a route connecting both the Jaintia hills and the Cachari kingdom through which the soldiers of Jaintia kingdom used to enter on the place of Cachar to impose the domination of Jaintia kings on Cachari subjects by collecting taxes. This was stated by Bidyutjyoti Purkayastha, former deputy inspector of schools, who has relevant records and documents with him.
In order to combat the Jaintia invaders, the Cachari king deputed Manipuri warriors who settled on the border line. It is said that the present inhabitants of the Manipuri villages near Jalalpur are the descendants of those warriors. After the coming into being the Cachar division of Assam forest department in 1946, a jeepable road was constructed from Natanpur tea garden to Umkiang of Meghalaya for inspection of forest of the north – west areas. After the partition, Sylhet – Shillong road link was disconnected and it was felt necessary to connect Cachar with Shillong, then Assam capital. The construction of Jowai – Badarpur road was therefore started by the Assam PWD in early 50’s. The contractor engaged for the construction as the record shows was a British identified as W Gill improved the said forest road and used it for collection of ration for the workers from the Jalalpur market. The road was popularly known as Capline. Shillong – Jowai – Badarpur – Agartala road was declared NH 44 in 1971 and taken over by BRTF from state PWDs for development and maintenance. Purkayastha quotes a resident of Kushiarkul village of Jalalpur Pargana, and elected chairman of Silchar Mahukama Parishad, who wrote a letter to Dr. Lutfur Rahaman, then PWD minister of Assam, in 1974 requesting him to divert the NH 44 from Umkiang of Meghalaya to Gumrah of Assam via Jalalpur. Dr. Rahaman recommended the proposal to Central Minister concerned Raj Bahadur. An enquiry as ordered by the Centre was conducted by a BRTF engineer S.Biswas. The report submitted by the engineer favoured a link road from Umkiang to Gumrah. As nothing tangible came out, Purkayastha collected the road map survey from the PWD and wrote to I K Gujral, the Prime Minister of the time, justifying the parallel link to NH 44 on several counts. As directed by the former Prime Minister, BRTF conducted the survey and submitted thereport vide letter no. 206/JBC/129/62 dated October 18, 1997, pointing out among others that the construction of this proposed road is quite justified. But this also failed to yield any positive result.
Kali Ranjan Deb, ex-MLA of Katigorah on being pursued by Bidyutjyoti Purkayastha pressed the NEC for the inclusion of this schemes. The NEC too conducted detailed survey, but everything was confined in files. Purkayastha thereafter filed PIL no. 11/2005 before the Gauhati High Court which in its order declined to interfere into the executive jurisdiction of the government, but directed the respondents to take decision within 6 months.
He then approached Sontosh Mohan Dev, former Union Minister, whose intervention ultimately moved the NEC to link the road from Gumrah to Rymbai of Meghalaya and then to extend it to Ladrymbai which would align with NH 44. If the parallel road could be completed, it would not only shorten the distance but also make the movement of vehicular traffic and passengers safe and secure as it will avoid the hazardous hilly terrains and the landslide prone zone of Sonapur, besides easing the congestion on NH 44.
People demand that the proposed road should be built according to NH specifications in order to make it all weather link of communication for Barak Valley, Manipur Mizoram and Tripura. THE SENTINEL