East-West corridor deadline extended up to October 31

Silchar: The National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) has set a new deadline of October 31 to complete the construction of the East-West corridor’s Balacherra-Harangajao stretch, whose work has been lying pending for decades.

The East-West corridor to connect Barak Valley’s Silchar with Gujarat’s Saurashtra was announced by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on October 10, 1998. Its foundation stone was laid by the then minister for surface transport B.C. Khanduri and Union finance minister Jaswant Singh in 2004. The 3,300 km road was supposed to be completed by 2007. 

Construction of the corridor has been completed in other parts of India except for two stretches – one is the Balacherra-Harangajao portion (in Dima Hasao and Cachar districts) and another is the Nirimbanglo-Harangajao stretch (in Dima Hasao district).

A source in the NHIDCL said Sushi Infra (the company which has been assigned to the Balacherra-Harangajao stretch’s work) had begun the project in December 2017 and the work was to be completed by June 24, 2020.

However, the work could not be wrapped up by then and a new deadline of April 30, 2023, was thereafter set, but going by the progress so far, another deadline of October 31 has been set to complete the work.

As per data from the NHIDCL, around 62.01 per cent of the construction of the 25.25km road (four-lane route) from Balacherra to Harangajao has been done so far and the remaining 37.99 per cent of work is yet to be completed. It is seemingly not possible to wrap up the rest of the work by April 30 (which is around one month from now) and thus a new deadline of October 31 has been set by the NHIDCL authorities, the source said.

Other sources, however, expressed doubts over the possibility of the NHIDCL’s next target to complete the Balacherra-Harangajao road work by October 31 citing monsoon-related problems. More than one-third of the work is still pending and the upcoming months of May, June, July and August are likely to be full of rainfall. Going by the progress so far and history records (which reveal the stretch’s work has got obstructed every year in monsoon seasons), it seems unlikely that the work will be finished by October 31, the sources claimed.

A section of people claimed the ruling BJP had been using the East-West corridor’s issue for political benefits (during elections) and that the new deadline might get changed too. Sharing his reaction with EastMojo on Wednesday, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) general secretary Sanjeev Roy said the saffron party is shrewdly using the East-West corridor’s issue to reap political gains during elections.

“They (BJP) used the issue in 2014 (general elections), 2016 (assembly polls) and again in 2019 (general elections). Every time (before an election), they made promises of the project’s completion and later carried the matter forward smartly to use it in the next elections,” Roy said.

Taking a swipe at Silchar BJP MP Rajdeep Roy, the APCC general secretary said Rajdeep goes to “picnic” after every six months or so in the name of inspecting the work of the Balacherra-Harangajao road and comes back to announce that a new deadline has been set. “We are sure this new deadline will also be changed. This project’s future is uncertain,” the APCC general secretary claimed. 

The general secretary of Dimasa Students’ Union, Dima Hasao unit, Pramith Sengyung said the authorities have changed deadlines multiple times and this gives clear indications of negligence on the part of the company assigned for the road work. “Previously, they (NHIDCL authorities) had given a number of deadlines and here is another one now. The new deadline may also be changed,” he said.

He demanded that the work be expedited and the project completed so that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s dream of connecting the north-eastern part of the country with Gujarat becomes a reality soon.

Trinamool Congress’ Dima Hasao unit committee convener Aching Zeme said the Assam government should take necessary steps to speed up the work so that the mega project gets completed soon. He also criticised the BJP for not being able to complete the project despite remaining in power both at the Centre and state for years.

Once completed properly, the East-West corridor will be an alternate route from Barak Valley to the state capital Guwahati. The national highway-6 (Barak Valley – Guwahati road via Meghalaya) often faces disruptions in vehicular movement, especially during the monsoons, due to landslides and mudslides.

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Notably, construction of another incomplete stretch of the East-West corridor – Nirimbanglo-Harangajao stretch began earlier this month with a bhumi pujan ceremony in Dima Hasao district’s Jatinga.

North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council’s chief executive member Debolal Gorlosa, Ranu Langthasa, chairperson, NCHAC and Kaushik Patel, project director, Dinesh Chandra R. Agrawal Infracon Private Limited (the construction agency which has been assigned for the Nirimbanglo-Harangajao stretch’s work) and a few others were present at the programme.

Also Read | Assam: Work on East-West corridor road project begins in Dima Hasao

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