Sikkim shares a love hate relationship with the monsoon. With sometimes sun beaming at daytime with all its might, the heat becomes unbearable for the people. And as the night falls the heavy monsoon drizzle brings some respite only to turn things more dramatic.
While the rest of the country is fighting heatwave, Sikkim enjoys the shower but at the same time fears it.
One of the most commonly dreaded aftermaths of the rain is the deplorable road conditions which adds up woe to the landslide worry.
The roads already swinging towards becoming worse from the bad, sends across a wave of fury among the public. Even the neatly tarred
national highway is not spared.
Not just weather, but the people in general perceive that roads in Sikkim are victim to multiplicity of agencies that look after it. There has also been concern of corruption and other corrupt practices that plague it.
One government contractor(refusing to be disclosed) stated that the system of indulging in corruption for road construction has been institutionalised ‘upto the highest levels.’
It seems like road construction is marred by more than often prolonged construction period coupled with bad weather. Many linking roads like Syari-Jalipool are taking ages to be completed.
The pattern of malpractices have been ‘made normal’ as roads in Sikkim need regular upkeep due to its topographical and climatic consequences. This situation has resulted in agencies involved in road construction and maintenance deliver pathetic results with most officials blaming natural factors for bad conditions of roads in Sikkim.
Comparitively, roads in neighbouring Darjeeling hills have a better feedback from stakeholders.
Ramesh Rai, a driver by profession states that road conditions in the neighbouring state is ‘stronger and better managed’ than roads in Sikkim. He says that the only complain that tourists have is of deplorable road conditions in the Himalayan state.
An official from Roads and Bridges states that while there has been a significant increase in road constructions in Sikkim, the lack of funds have been a major problem for speedy redressal of road related problems.
Centre agencies and state agencies both have clearly lacked in formulating a proper action plan for road infrastructure in Sikkim where it is clearly the only mode of transport.
Sikkim is often in the news for being cut off from rest of the country. The sole lifeline of Sikkim NH 10 is in the worst condition on West Bengal strech of the highway. The plans for an alternative route is, well, just plans which have not progressed much despite of the popular demand for having one.
With only airport temporarily shutting down, Centre government needs to look into construction of an all weather quality alternative highway in urgency.
Another enormous problem is being faced by commuters due to spike in fares which is a usual phenomenon in tourist and festival seasons where the sole highway is jam packed with vehicles often causing long jams and hours of delay.
These are situations in ‘normal’ conditions, while the humongous challenge to travel occurs when neighbouring Darjeeling hills with a turbulent political situation often disrupts normal lives of people in Sikkim.
With schemes like Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), the accelerated construction of roads in rural parts of the state is welcomed but the longevity of road is short lived and often after a fresh season of monsoon many roads are washed off.
Long term planning and proper implementation in the process of constructing roads are clearly lacking in vision. The focus now is on the kilometers of roads a state adds disregarding the important role of that roads play in its sustainability which can give a boost almost all sectors of development.