The Lotha Middle Range Students’ Union (LMRSU) has declared an indefinite bandh across the Lotha Middle Range Jurisdiction under Wokha District, effective from 18 March 2024. This decision comes as a response to the delayed completion of the “upgradation of Sanis to Lakhuti road under PMGSY-II” project.

According to the LMRSU announcement, the following restrictions will be enforced during the bandh period: All vehicular movement, except for essential services such as Police, paramilitary forces, medical services (including ambulances and vehicles transporting patients and deceased individuals), fire and emergency services, power department, press, and students traveling for examinations with valid ID cards/admit cards, will be restricted.

Both government and private institutions, commercial shops, and government departmental offices, with the exception of administration and police stations, will remain closed.

Furthermore, the Union has articulated the following demands, which they insist must be addressed for the bandh to be lifted: The prime contractor should address the public of the deprived villages in person and declare a written assurance stating to complete the work within the stipulated given period.

Representatives from the Government of Nagaland must address the public and provide written assurances that the projects will be completed within the stipulated time frame.

The LMRSU said the bandh shall continue until the genuine demands of the Union and public are materialized.

Government appeals for reconsideration of bandh
In response to the Lotha Middle Range Students’ Union’s (LMRSU) announcement, the Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department (PWD) and Empowered Officer of NGRRDA, Government of Nagaland, has appealed to the LMRSU to reconsider their decision.

The Chief Engineer highlighted the actions taken by the Department and the State Government to ensure the timely completion of the project. He stated that despite verbal and written assurances from the contractor to complete the work by 10 March 2024, as discussed during a meeting on 1 February 2024, the contractor failed to meet the deadline. Consequently, the Chief Engineer issued a directive, dated 10 March 2024, to impose Liquidity Damage (LD) at the rate of 1% per week of delay from 11 March 2024 onwards on all subsequent bills of the contractor.

Further, the Chief Engineer said the State Government, through a letter dated 16 March 2024, has taken decisive actions, including: a) Issuing notice to the contractor regarding the imposition of LD on their work. b) Warning that the contractor’s contract will be terminated if the entire work is not completed by 31 March 2024 with the contractor bearing all expenses to complete the work, including deductions from other existing contracts within Nagaland. c) Stating that the contractor’s firm will be blacklisted and barred from participating in any future projects under the Department if the work is not completed by 31 March 2024.

Additionally, the Chief Engineer assured that the State Government and the Department is taking all measures to ensure that the work is completed by 31 March 2024. However, if the contractor fail to do so, the CE said measures have been taken to ensure due penalties to the contractor but, at the same time, measures have also been taken to ensure that this work will be completed by all means.

However, a local journalist from Wokha, upon inquiring whether the LMRSU would be calling off the proposed bandh, informed Mokokchung Times that the LMRSU has confirmed that the bandh will proceed as their demands were not met.

Why the LMRSU have imposed the bandh

Earlier on 15 March, the LMRSU through a press release had expressed their discontentment about the “long pending issue” of upgradation of Sanis ‘0′ point to Lakhuti road under PMGSY-II.

It may be recalled that on 29 September 2020, MLA Mhathung Yanthan launched the upgradation of the existing Sanis to Lakhuti road (Central part of Wokha-Merapani road) in Wokha district to an “all weather road”.

According to LMRSU, the project, spanning 18 kilometers and with a total cost of Rs 1542.88 lakhs, was entrusted to the company M/S North-East Enterprises, with a contractual obligation to finish the work by March 2022.

Despite a six-month extension granted to the company, the project remains unfinished, much to the dismay of the LMRSU and the local community.

In response to this ongoing issue, the LMRSU conducted thorough inspections of the road project and submitted a memorandum to the Commissioner and Secretary of Works & Housing on 25 January 2024. Following this, a series of official deliberations and meetings were held, including one on 1 February 2024, attended by LMRSU executives, stakeholders, the Additional Chief Engineer of R&B, Nagaland, and the contractor. During this meeting, it was agreed upon that the prime contractor would complete the project by 10 March 2024 as per the contractual obligations.

However, subsequent inspections conducted by the LMRSU revealed insufficient progress, with the contractor merely initiating preparatory steps for construction. Expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of concrete progress, the LMRSU issued an ultimatum, warning of democratic forms of agitation if significant headway was not made by 15 March 2024.

Following failed attempts to resolve the issue through dialogue and negotiation, the LMRSU, in collaboration with other stakeholders, made the decision to initiate a total indefinite bandh within the Lotha Middle Range jurisdiction, starting from 18 March 2024.

Mokokchung Times

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