By Avia Ngwazah, first published in Assam Sentinel on 25 November 2010. Used with permission from the author.
Time has never been this good for Yobin community over these many years with road development speeding up, with a target to complete in January next. But with our experience of deprivations over these many years, ‘good intents’ too are viewed with cynicism, if not suspicion. Though such cynicisms are not without reasons.
The road was made jeepable by 1975 when the then Governor of Arunachal Pradesh KAA Raja came through the MV Road in a fleet of 12 jeeps. Bridges of wood logs were constructed over the streams and rivers on the way; concrete bridges were built over rivers and streams only up to the 40th mile. When the road was newly built I remember well, soon afterwards, our neighbours bought a jeep. Also an uncle who had a jeep at Dawodi village used to fetch essential commodities from Naharkatia (Assam). But very soon, the road was abandoned, disrupted and the jeeps became useless! Sitting idle for years, the jeep was sold off to one of Assam rifles’ Majors who transported it to Dibrugarh by plane.
Subsequently, almost all the bridges and logs disappeared and the road too disappeared over the years. One wonders why the road construction did not continue after the visit of his Excellency KAA Raja! It was as though the road was made only for that one VIP visit. In a way, this stretch of Miao-Vijaynagar road has been one of the longest road projects ever undertaken in India!
One becomes more cynical when one hears about sacrifices made by thousands of people with their tear and sweat. Recently, I had visited West Siang district. There I met at least five gentlemen of different generation, who were the builders of MV Road. When they came to know that I am from Vijoynagar, they immediately asked about the Lisus, the Road, Dawodi etc. I told them that we have no road now! Their jaws dropped as I narrated them that we trek for 6 days to reach Vijaynagar from Miao! They were aghast in disbelief as if disappearance of MV road was their personal lose. Their reactions were in a sense a reflection of the fact that efforts of thousands of poor citizens who toiled on the MV Road were wasted. It is also a matter of fact that many lives were lost in the process of making the mammoth 157-Km MV Road in the early 1970s.
Noise of earthmovers and bulldozers may be generating lot of excitement amongst media, well wishers including the office of Governor JJ Singh and that of now Capital Deputy Commissioner SB Deepak Kumar, who walked for days to reach the forbidden town during his stint in Changlang, as much as amongst those who know about Yobins and Vijaynagar but frankly, we do not hear anyone from Vijaynagar expressing hope that the MV Road will be made a standard road by PWD. Most of the people in Vijaynagar do not share the same optimism about PWD department as most believe. The current crop of PWD engineers are adopting the same technique and methodologies adopted years ago by their own seniors: roads are narrow- only fit to be used for one way traffic and bridges are built with wood-logs again! All signs indicate that the road would work-out only for one season. In other words this means that the road construction activity is only to quench His Excellency Governor JJ Singh’s desire to hoist the tricolour at Vijaynagar on January 26, 2011. This very same PWD would be in trouble if Governor JJ Singh says that he wants to hoist national flag on August 15, 2011, forget 2012 because January 26 would mean a dry month with only ankle-deep water flowing over river ‘Pagla Nadi’ at the 6th Mile, which is otherwise a ferocious wild river during monsoons. Question is, will the road-builder leave it like that or will they construct standard road after the VIP visit? Will the government continue to fund till the road is done, as indicated? Or will it be conveniently forgotten yet again?
Optimism, which has been the diet of Yobins all through these dark years, makes us believe that the Governor would visit during monsoon months too. And also believe that new crop of officers like Dr. SB Deepak Kumar, who after the trekking the MV Road, does not brag about his feat but advocates re-making of the road to alleviate people’s sufferings. With this band of new officers, India will just thrive and likes of Dr SB Deepak Kumar will not have to walk the 157 Kms ever again, instead they will drive in and out of Vijaynagar!