Agartala, June 22: National Highway 6 holds immense significance for Barak Valley, Mizoram, and Tripura as it serves as a lifeline for these regions. The uninterrupted flow of supplies heavily relies on the condition of this crucial road.
Many transport and commerce-related activities take place through this NH-6 in the three states. Unfortunately, heavy rainfall in Assam and anomalies in Meghalaya may easily disrupt the transportation route. One simple example of its significance is that whenever there is a flood in Assam, fuel prices rise in Mizoram due to a lack of fuel.
The memory of the devastating floods of last year in Dima Hasao, Silchar, and the rest of Barak Valley lingers in the minds of the people, who accuse the Assam government of neglecting the issue of floods.
In contemporary times, as floodwaters once again affect lower Assam and certain districts in upper Assam, the previous catastrophe seems to have been consigned to the history books. However, the residents remember the hardships endured, and their concerns extend beyond Assam and Barak Valley.
To address this ongoing issue and in the aftermath of the previous catastrophic floods, the citizens of Barak Valley submitted a memorandum in July 2022, appealing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the construction of a road from Sutarkandi in Karimganj district to Guwahati, passing through Bangladesh and Meghalaya.
Despite efforts to establish alternative routes, such as the East-West corridor connecting the valley to Guwahati via the Dima Hasao district, the project remains incomplete after more than two decades.
The construction work on this road, initiated during the tenure of Atal Behari Vajpayee, has been indefinitely delayed. Train services have also been significantly affected, with Dima Hasao district alone experiencing over 200 days of suspension due to extensive landslides last year.
Fast forward to 2023, and the challenges still persist. Heavy rainfall, landslides, and mudslides in Meghalaya have caused disruptions once again, leaving NH-6 impassable. The residents of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura find themselves on the edge. Consequently, there is a renewed call for the establishment of the Sutarkandi-Guwahati route to address the persistent road connectivity issues in the region.
The memorandum submitted to Prime Minister Modi in June 2022 highlighted the geographical bottlenecks in Barak Valley that sever its connection to the rest of the country during monsoons.
The proposed road from Sutarkandi to Guwahati (Assam) via Sheola, Sylhet, Jaflong (Bangladesh), and Dawki (Meghalaya) offers a viable solution for residents, as it traverses plains and mitigates landslide-related challenges faced by the existing NH-6 and East-West corridor routes.
The memorandum emphasized that the construction costs for this alternative road would be significantly lower, as the road infrastructure already exists. Opening this route would benefit not only the people of Barak Valley and Dima Hasao but also neighboring states like Tripura, Mizoram, and Manipur.
In their appeal to Prime Minister Modi, the signatories of the memorandum implored him to engage with the Bangladesh government to facilitate the opening of the alternate route from Sutarkandi to Guwahati.
Copies of the memorandum were also sent to various political leaders, including Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, former Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Mizoram, Mizoram Chief Minister Z. Zoramthanga, and then Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Saha.
In September 2022, Mission Ranjan Das, Chairman of the Assam State Transport Corporation and former BJP MLA submitted another memorandum on this matter to the Prime Minister. Although a letter was sent by Ravi Nirmal, undersecretary to the Government of India, on September 2, 2022, requesting an examination of the citizen’s concerns raised in the memorandum, the progress on the issue has been minimal.
Radhikaranjan Chakraborty, one of the signatories and former principal of Karimganj College, emphasized the urgency of the situation and asserted that the Sutarkandi-Guwahati road represents the best solution to address the connectivity issues. Saumitra Adhikari, the founder of Ritwiz Cine Art Society, a Karimganj-based organization, highlighted that the proposed road would allow people from Barak Valley to reach Guwahati in under six hours, underscoring its potential impact.
The demand for improved road connectivity through the construction of the Sutarkandi-Guwahati route continues to gain momentum, as residents eagerly await a resolution to their long-standing transportation challenges.