Creation of lasting infrastructure in terms of all-weather road connectivity is intrinsically linked to development. Indeed, investing handsomely in such critical infrastructure holds the key to effecting the desired growth in diverse spheres. Adversely, perennial neglect meted out to road development can throttle the development process of any region. The success of trade and commerce, industry, etc., is largely linked to the existence of a proper road network – more so in a region like the Northeast, which is dominated by the hilly and difficult terrain, making connectivity a tough proposition. The Northeast had suffered a lot on account of poor road connectivity over the decades. Things have started to change since the past one-and-a-half decade with more Central funds coming for the purpose but a lot still remains to be done to put the region’s road connectivity at par with the advanced States of the country. It was good to see Monday’s Union Budget taking cognizance of this pressing need for the Northeast, with substantial funds earmarked for road development in Assam. Work on national highways in the State worth Rs 19,000 crore is currently under progress while another Rs 34,000 crore will be invested in the sector in the coming three years. Now the need is to ensure foolproof implementation of the highway projects within a stipulated time frame. Delays have for long been a bane in the execution of any development project in Assam, especially the highway projects that invariably cause huge cost escalation due to repeated missed deadlines.
The remoteness and the strategic importance of the region makes it all the more imperative to have adequate road connectivity. Inadequacy apart, a majority of the existing roads do not meet the qualitative norms and the result is that a sizeable portion of the road network, especially in Assam, remains perennially dilapidated. This is despite the fact that the extreme weather conditions of the region such as heavy rainfall, landslides and recurring floods warrant roads to be durable, requiring zero-maintenance for at least four-five years. Utilization of the locally available materials for road construction should be another priority for reducing transportation cost and time. Maintenance of safety standards is yet another critical component for both design and construction of roads for ensuring safe and speedy transportation. While the availability of roads in the region remains well below the national average, it scores even worse when it comes to blacktopped roads. This makes transportation a nightmare during the prolonged monsoon season. Bad road conditions are also attributable to the lack of periodical maintenance and compromise in quality during construction, effectively negating the utility of roads.