Response :Plight of border roads (Garhwal Post editorial )

Thanks Satish for this timely edit.

Let me first suggest a change in the lead, as it should no more read " Plight " but a " Crying Shame", in your future edits. I am being deliberately harsh as of late I have found that the state bureaucracy has become increasingly insensitive and indifferent and, as I am told, even basic courtesies of acknowledging letters and telephone calls are not being observed by majority of civil servants, on public matters.

Personally, excepting a small honourable exceptions, I have stopped speaking or writing to the officials since year 2005, when I took charge as CIC, Information Commission. Now, I have write but only through RTI applications ! The complaint I have mentioned is from several senior and respectable civil servants who happen to reside in this state and town and I do feel exceedingly ashamed of this deterioration in civil servant's behaviour.

Now that we have re-located ourselves at Munsyari, Pithoragarh nearly the last village of that border area, and having spent a good part of current Monsoons let me provide you a picture of this highly lamentable state of affairs and some of the perceptions prevailing about road construction in these border regions.

1. All the Indo-China border roads were agreed to be linked with all-weather roads by NOT 2013 but 2012. During Mr Patil's Home Ministry-ship Ministries of Home Affairs, External Affairs, Environment & Forests and Road Surface Transport had got together and agreed upon this time schedule. We are already near half way to 2012 but we are no where that ambitious target.

2. The road construction work is so sluggish and not being monitored that on one such road, Munsyari-Bogdyar and Milam, from the Munsyari side for complete three first months the "chainage" as it is called did not proceed a single INCH, forget about connecting Milam, some 65 kilometers away !! So, more than 60% of working time is over and we do not move a single inch !

3. Speaking of access to Munsyari ( leave aside reaching the Indo-China border village of Milam, which is 65 kms away ) there are just two access. Most commonly used is Almora-Berinag-Thal and Munsyari. From Thal to Munsyari it is 73 kms. You must experience traveling on this road to get a taste of how our border people are living ! When I some how got out of Munsyari, in connection with some work, it was already inaccessible for more than 10 days and I was told that it would take a minimum of another 15 days to make it passable. This 73 km patch Thal-to Munsyari is breached at at least four places, at least needs four bridges of 17 to 20 meters span, and immediate widening to one and a half times width. People have been demanding its widening and making it all-weather for several years now. This is easily the worst possible example of our border roads today and is easily a CRYING SHAME on our road making efforts in the border regions. The existing condition of Thal-Munsyari road is a living example of white lies that is being touted about improved conditions of our border roads.

4. As regards the alternate road, linking our Indo-China border village of Milam, it is handed over to the Border Roads Organisation, with a unit now located near Darkot. Last year from Darkot I connected by moble the brigadier sitting at Rishikesh to explain how road making is being supervised by the BRO. yet another crying shame, as no senior officer of thei formation has ever visited the region, and already there are allegations about money making, falsification of recorsd and estimates, sale of diesel by the officials in the border villages. One's head hangs in shame to listen to such rampant neglect, apathy and sheer callousness on the part of every one concerned.

Sitting in Dehradun and speaking to press, mouthing inanities is one thing and experiencing on the spot, traveling to such areas is quite different.

I wonder if the views of the Mansarovar and Kailas pilgrims, who have just returned from Tibet have reached the eyes and years of the power that be. All of them have very critical experience of comparing what has been achieved just as you cross Lipu lekh in China with the shameful situation that exists this side of the border. With the press reporting to the gallery the experience never reach beyond the readers of Dharchula Munsyari, in Page Pithoragarh, while who should read these nasty comments are those who shuttle between Dehardun and Delhi, every other day.

It would do our Chief Minister and Chief Secretary a world of good to read the experiences of all the groups who have so far gone to Kailas Mansosarovar by requisiting their comments from District Information Officer of Pithoragarh rather than go by the press clippings of Dehradun only, which is on fashion parades and events which appear surrealistic to our border people, who keep cursing the government and administration almost every day. Hope it is not getting too late already !

Indeed the situation of our border roads could not have been worse and all the tall claims made here in newspapers are a slap on the face of our border people, as these are just blatant lies.
I am sorry for such harsh assessment but the situation is actually far worse ! Why not just have a taste of Thal-Munsyari ( 73 kms ) stretch to test what I have said and taste it personally ?

RS Tolia,
on visit to Dehradun

R S Tolia

Late Dr. R.S. Tolia, Ph.D., was former Chief Secretary ( 2003-05 ) and Chief Information Commissioner ( 2005-10) of Uttarakhand. He also served in various voluntary positions after retirement and devoted his time for Mountain Development Agenda.

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