The apex civil society organizations (CSOs) within Wokha district, in conjunction with the Joint Action Committee (JAC) representing various bodies of Wokha village, have issued an ultimatum to the District Administration of Wokha. The ultimatum demands the commencement of work on the ongoing two-lane construction of NH-2 (Old NH-61) from KM 72.40 to KM 83.00 in the district within five days from the date of publication of the matter in the various media forums.
If the construction is not initiated within this timeframe, the organizations stated that they “shall be compelled to announce an indefinite bandh of the National Highway passing through Wokha district.” The decision to issue this ultimatum comes after several discussions and negotiations on the issue, all of which have yielded no tangible results, according to the organizations. The CSOs and JAC further asserted that further negotiations or deliberations will not be entertained henceforth.
Crux issue of NH-2 as it stands now
The NH-2 has been struggling with two significant issues involving encroachment in the Right of Way (ROW) and concerns about the ongoing construction’s quality. The Joint Action Committee (JAC) intervened to address the ROW problem, resulting in a temporary work stoppage and the withdrawal of machinery slowly by the overseeing company.
Following ultimatums and discussions, Deputy Chief Minister TR Zeliang conducted an inspection in December 2023 and convened a meeting at Hammock Resort, Wokha.
During the meeting, efforts were made to tackle the ROW issue, leading to the administration issuing notices for the removal of encroached structures within ROW, with the commitment of machinery from the contractor. The contractor reportedly assured that quality concerns would be addressed, pledging to resume work the next day.
However, this plan did not unfold as expected, preventing the machinery’s return to Wokha. Despite completing ROW marking, because of the absence of machinery, no actions could be taken by the district administration. Thus far, both the issue of ROW and the quality of work issue has not been dealt with as promised, thereby making the organization’s demand unfulfilled.
Faced with these challenges, the district administration and the Department of Public Works (National Highways) made the decision to proceed with demolitions using local resources starting on February 1.
The crux of the issue revolves around the contractor lacking machinery and manpower, prompting the district administration’s primary objective to bring the contractor back and kickstart the project. Concurrently, the PWD (NH) in Kohima is actively addressing safety and contractual concerns related to the project while pursuing the contractor to resume the work.
DC Wokha says efforts underway to resume highway project
Addressing the 5-day ultimatum issued by the CSOs and JAC, Ajit Kumar Ranjan, IAS, Deputy Commissioner of Wokha, assured this newspaper that comprehensive efforts are underway from both the administration and the department to bring the contractor back to the district for the highway project.
The contractor and the workforce had departed last year, prompting the Deputy Commissioner to emphasize, “Adequate security arrangements will be made as required by the contractor.”
He further stated, “With cooperation from the administration, police, and all sections of society, we will collectively ensure a secure environment to resume the work. Both the department and the administration are making every effort, and we remain hopeful for the best.”