The story behind the “extra-ordinary People’s Road” through the voice of NFHRCC
Following the ‘controversial’ inauguration by Home Minister Amit Shah on January 6 remotely, a dedication ceremony for the Doyang Bridge was held today at Governor’s Camp in Liphanyan, Wokha.
Calling it ‘historic’ and ‘unique’, during the program the General Secretary of the Nagaland Foothill Road Coordination Committee (NFHRCC), W Lemba Chang said that the project was ‘extraordinary’ since it is the “unison voice of all 12 tribes to bail out Nagas from the chokes of humiliation and unnecessary harassment.”
Chang further stated that it was ‘extraordinary’ because there was no land compensation for land owners, no taxes by Naga Political Groups, and an extraordinary effort was made by the State Government to meet the people’s aspirations.
The Foothill Road, also known as the ‘Trans-Nagaland Expressway’ and referred to as the “People’s Road,” is a 396 km long project that was conceptualized by the Naga Government in 1974 and connects Dimapur to Tizit of Mon District. It runs through Dimapur, Wokha, Mokchung, Longleng, and Mon districts.
The Nagaland Foothill Road Coordination Committee (NFHRCC) began this project in 2013 and described it as “extraordinary” and “historic” because it was a “people’s project” undertaken by Naga public civil society organizations and the tribal Hohos.
The project was then undertaken by M/S Phukhato Shohe & Sons. Speaking at the program, the contractor clarified the different issues that the committee had faced which caused the project to be delayed.
He described how they had to halt the project in 2014 due to some internal issues between the Adivasis of Assam and the Lothas; how, in 2017, during the ULB election, even pedestrians were not allowed to move; Demonetization; GST imposition in 2017; washing away of their machinery due to release of water from the hydro dam upstream; collapse of Chathe bridges and others that disconnected all connectivity; and the change of government in the centre which resulted in the abrupt halt of the SPA fund.
“Unaware of all those issues, individuals took it to the media and social media and accused us of misusing money and what not. So, today, I want to appeal to everyone that before you go to the press and media, please contact the relevant authorities or committee first,” he urged.
NFHRCC refutes rumour of ABAM fund misuse
During the dedicatory program, the Convenor of NFHRCC Supu Jamir recollected how the project was first proposed by the Ao Senso Telongjem Dimapur.
“Our brothers ENPO, CNTC, and Rengma brothers joined hands with us and made a determination that Nagas must survive whatever happens,” he said, adding that the project has withstood the test of time.
“People labeled us as cheaters, doubted and crucified us for no fault of ours,” he said. However, he claimed that from the beginning the committee had resolved that the “project will not be compromised; the project will not be politicized under no circumstances” and that it had stood that way.
The convener also addressed the rumor of ABAM fund misuse during the program.
“When Mar Atsongchanger was the Executive Secretary of ABAM, he phoned us and said we had collected 36.56 lakhs and asked us whether to deliver it in checks or cash or by other means,” he narrated.
“However, the committee has made it clear that this committee is not for money. Our committee is only a pressure group. We are not supposed to use the money,” he explained, adding that they acknowledged the ABAM and requested that it be given to the government.
He stated that ABAM delivered the money to the government, but the government was unable to adjust the fund, so the money was returned to ABAM.
“But there were a lot of rumors that we have misused the fund,” he said, and asserted that the committee, in the name of God and of the Naga people, had never misused those funds.
Representatives from Nagaland Joint Christian Forum, Young Naga Action Committee of Foothill Roads, Central Naga Tribal Council (CNTC) and Eastern Naga People’s Organization (ENPO) also spoke at the program and congratulated the committee for its success.
Rev Moses Murry, Chairman, Dimapur Christian Forum offered the dedicatory prayer. The 135 meter RCC bridge was constructed at an approximate cost of Rs 28 crore.