It doesn’t pay to be patient with an “indifferent” government. So the people of seven villages in Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills district took it upon themselves to end their wait for a road project undertaken 20 years ago.
Some 750 men and women of these villages — Mookhon Iung, Mookabeng, Nongkharai, Nonglatem, Iongshiwiat, Moorathut and Nongdhar —did not block traffic or storm the office of the Public Works Department (Roads).
They picked up their spades and pickaxes, scraped the earth and chiseled boulders from the hills nearby and started work on their own road.
These cluster of seven villages (sited 105 km southeast of state capital Shillong) lie on 85 km
Nongpoh-Nartiang road. The PWD (Roads) began work on this road in 1989-90, but left out a 15 km stretch connecting these villages.
“Last month, we decided that we had waited long enough. All the villagers got together and decided to begin work from September 4. We hope to complete the work by the end of this month, and then see if the government still remains shameless and doesn’t put tar on it,” said Tyllilang Mukhim, rangbah shnong ( headman) of Nonglatem village.
Officials, however, are far from being fazed by the villagers’ action. “We cannot do anything unless we have adequate funds to complete the project,” said a PWD officer.
According to Mukhim, the villagers want to make the road good enough for commercial vehicles to carry their agricultural produce.
“Almost all of us grow a variety of vegetables, rice, ginger and broomstick, and it is not always possible to take them to the markets before they rot,” he told HT from Nonglatem.
The headman claimed at least eight persons had died in these villages over the past couple of years due to delay in carrying them to the nearest primary health centre.
Access to healthcare has been an issue raging in other parts of Meghalaya as well. The Ri-Bhoi Youth Federation on Monday launched a two-night road blockade in Ri-Bhoi district to make the D.D. Lapang government for better health care facilities.
The announcement of the blockade almost coincided with the headmen of 13 villages in West Khasi Hills district lodging a complaint with the authorities concerned demanding better roads and healthcare.