A road in Kohima, Nagaland

It takes sheer will to do something. Whether it is for your own good or for the good of the people or the whole world, it requires a certain drive or power that accelerates that purpose. And the government of the day deserves appreciation for that spark of interest it has finally shown in improving the roads in Nagaland. Thanks to them, the state, or at least the citizens of Kohima are finally seeing signs of progress in that sense.

Not that roads were never repaired in the last decade. They were revamped but the way with which the roads were built, were of such poor quality in the first place that they never lasted long enough for citizens to feel there ever were good roads to start with. No good drainage system, no proper footpaths, and as some of them say ‘lipstick coating’ to describe road repair in the state for all these years.

We have dwelt in that environment for decades. So much so that whenever any stretch of road was being repaired albeit poor workmanship, there is much joy and excitement at the sight of blacktopping. However short-lived that fresh sign of development, we were happy and excited as if somebody was doing us a very special favour. Whereas ironically that’s a basic right we long ought to have.

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And on rainy days, many young students with heavy schoolbags would have to walk home through the rain. Worse still, having to walk through muddy roads, dirty car splashes (a result of potholed ridden roads) on some unlucky days, and almost always, during the season, ending up with dirty school uniforms and shoes to call it a day.

Some years ago, The Naga Blog, a forum on Facebook where Nagas and people from around the world network, share ideas and discuss a wide range of topics, took to the streets in protest of the deplorable road conditions in the state under the motto ‘Mission Potholes’. It was a unique sight to see people from all walks of life going out into the streets with fishing rods and paddy saplings, planting them right in the heart of Kohima town, where was no shortage of potholes and in the meantime flaunted with placards that read ‘Drive slow: farmers planting rice ahead’ and ‘Drive slow: men fishing ahead’.

A few years ago, people took to the streets in protest against the deplorable road conditions in the state under the ‘Mission Potholes’ initiative

The ‘Mission Potholes’ initiative that first began in Kohima and Dimapur, later spread to other places and districts across Nagaland, garnering much attention. The very fact that such an initiative was necessitated speaks so much of the long-prevailing road condition in Nagaland. There are also several anecdotes pertaining to the condition of the poor roads in Nagaland. Outsiders who visited Nagaland and said something like “you literally don’t have roads in Nagaland”, “you can’t call these, roads”, “doesn’t anybody complain about it?” and other such comments were common.

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I once heard about a foreigner who visited Nagaland some years ago and was obviously surprised to see the pathetic condition of our roads. This particular foreigner, after seeing the poor state of roads in our state, talked of his realisation about what good his government is doing back in his country. It was only when he had ventured out to see a place less than his own that he discovered the good governance of his country.

That said, for a place like Nagaland, it is the fervent hope of every citizen to have access to good roads. And finally, after what felt like forever, there are some positive signs emerging. After being so used to seeing poor workmanship as far as building roads are concerned, it is easy to see that the current undertaking in this regard, is of much better quality. Proper drainages are being constructed, there are signs of footpaths and railings and at the look of it, this can only get better as days go by.

I see limitless possibilities if we have good roads all across Nagaland. Imagine how much more we can do, how much more our state’s economy can grow, how much more beautiful and cleaner our state would look, how much more time we can save, and how much more energy we can save for greater pursuits. I think good roads are at the heart of development. Once our roads are developed, there is so much potential to go forward. Good roads will open doors to many other opportunities that we have missed in the past years.

Needless to say, one of the foremost changes I wish to see in Nagaland is better roads. Many of us might have lost hope to see a time when we travel on good roads devoid of potholes. I am sure that many of us have also hoped at one point of time that the roads may not necessarily be blacktopped so long as we can have a smooth ride considering the pathetic condition of our roads. But today, there is hope emerging once again. And this, I can say is the beginning of real development. Our roads may not yet be perfect but there are many stretches of road that are currently being properly constructed in Kohima. Hopefully this development is not limited only to places like the capital and Dimapur but goes beyond and covers all the districts of Nagaland for we all need access to good roads.

And if you are somebody like me, then we must appreciate this initiative. Because only good roads can make our lives better, and definitely easier. There are many times we criticize the government for the lack of things, facilities, services, employment, etc, in our lives but when they do one good thing, we must appreciate.

As somebody once said, “Roads make a crucial contribution to economic development and growth and bring important social benefits. They are of vital importance in order to make a nation grow and develop. In addition, providing access to employment, social, health and education services makes a road network crucial in fighting against poverty. Roads open up more areas and stimulate economic and social development. For those reasons, road infrastructure is the most important of all public assets.”

(Vishü Rita Krocha is a poet, author and a journalist by profession with experience in the field for over 10 years. She also runs a home-based publication house called PenThrill Publication House. Views expressed are her own)

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