People in the north-eastern states would rather travel through Bhutan and Bangladesh to reach other areas in India rather than cross violence and shutdown-prone Assam.
Years ago Arunachal Pradesh sought a highway corridor to India’s mainland via Bhutan, now other NE states are working on ‘hill drill’ or foothill road projects to avoid travel through Assam.
Earlier this year, Nagaland joined the club to build skirt-Assam roads. The Nagaland Foothill Road Coordination Committee was formed as a watchdog for a 300km road from eastern Nagaland’s Mokokchung town to Dimapur, its commercial hub. The road entails a new 70km alignment along the Assam-Nagaland border and connecting it to an existing road network.
“Avoiding Assam is the primary reason behind the Rs 1,000crore road project. Earth cutting for a 10km stretch has been completed,” Sobu Jamir, convenor of the committee, said from Mokokchung.
Meghalaya had similarly undertaken a 264km highway project to connect state capital Shillong and Tura, headquarters of the Garo Hills in the west through Nongstoin town. Estimated to cost Rs 1,494crore, this road will be an alternative to the 323km route via Guwahati and a trouble-prone stretch of south-western Assam.
Assam has annually averaged more than 100 shutdowns and violence-induced communication disruptions in the past few years. This had prompted former Arunachal CM Gegong Apang to seek a highway to Bengal through Bhutan.
“Since Indian agencies build roads in Bhutan, New Delhi should make a road that links us to the mainland without risking travel through Assam,” Apang had said in 2007. The present regime is not averse to the idea with the Rs 10,000crore, 1,811 km Trans-Arunachal Highway project under way. It will connect Tawang in north-western Arunachal to Kanubari at its south-eastern tip.
Tripura, the most landlocked of NE states, too considers travel through Bangladesh safer. “We readily agreed to the railway ministry’s alignment report (2011) for proposed rail connectivity with Bangladesh,” said Tripura’s chief minister Manik Sarkar.
Already buses ply from Tripura capital Agartala to Kolkata via Bangladesh capital Dhaka.