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Roads of Sikkim, leads nowhere: OP-ED

A few days ago, I was travelling in a taxi from STNM Hospital to Gangtok when in a few meters distance, the taxi hit a pothole. The first thing the driver did was curse the administration and Government of Sikkim, and later he started talking about the road conditions in Sikkim. In between the talks, what caught my attention was when he said, “Union Ministers must keep visiting Sikkim on a weekly basis for at least a motor able road.”

Recently, during a press conference by Phuli Sherpa, she also raised the question, “Do the people of Sikkim only get to commute on a good road when Union Ministers visit Sikkim?”

Amit Shah, Union Minister for Home Affairs, visited Sikkim recently on October 7. The Chief Minister of Sikkim, as well as the dignitaries and people of Sikkim, greeted him warmly. The boquet of flowers, national flags, and flyers were decorated for his welcome. The road between Ganju Lama Dwar and Raj Bhavan was repaired within two to three days.

The road administration, despite the rain and traffic, repaired the road within a few days by working day and night. People were stuck in traffic for hours and hours. Students missed their exams and classes on almost a daily basis. Even after all that, people were grateful as the roads were being repaired. I heard a person say, “If we are getting a good motorable road in exchange for a few wasted hours, it’s still a good deal.”

He further said that, “The only problem is, even after so many wasted hours, the roads were being repaired for the Union Minister but not for the common public.”

Gangtok is the capital of our state and it has the largest multi-specialty hospital in the state. Daily, thousands and thousands of people visit Gangtok from across the state for the hospital. In the same cab I took from the hospital to Gangtok, a passenger from West Sikkim, who was in Gangtok for medical purposes, said, “Forget about other roads, but is it too much to expect at least a favourable road for the hospital?”

The passenger further said that, “Sarkaar le etro thulo hospital banayo, Tara hospital awne road chai bimari lyauda lyaudai mari sakcha.” And another passenger in the same vehicle added, “Hamro State Organic ho, tei vaera sayaad government le Dhaan (Paddy) ropne thau banako hola ni.”

When I got back home, I was discussing the conversation that took place in the vehicle with my friends. While discussing, one of my friends said, “The same administration that repairs a road within a few days despite rain for the Union Ministers is blind for the common public.”

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Sikkim is a small state with a total road length of 3668 km, which is comparatively shorter than other states of the nation, yet our state has hardly any motorable roads. Roads that are barely done with construction have huge potholes in between the commute.

The national highway, state highway, and village road conditions are almost the same for every road. Even a low level of precipitation instigates a fear among commuters about whether they will be able to reach their destination or get stuck in between.

Roads are one of the major factors in the development of the place, and further, Sikkim is a place where a large share of the revenue is generated from the tourism sector. The unfavourable road conditions not only hold back the state from achieving its full capacity in the tourism sector, they further insult the reputation of the state.

The government of Sikkim and its administration are actually working on improving the road condition of the state by taking all the necessary measures, but still it is not enough. The road condition in Sikkim is not even slightly better than in the past few years. The passenger on the vehicle I was travelling in, said, “Parivartan Parivartan vandai sarkaar ma ta Parivartan aayo tara road vane jasta ko testai, ajai bigrera po jadai cha.”

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