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India's long motorway to Myanmar takes form | World Press Releases
Is he ever gonna end this nightmare street? As a quietly speaking technician, he has spent an estimate of 115 million dollars on the night sleeplessness he has suffered since the beginning of his work on "the work of his career", a street linking India via Myanmar to Southeast Asia. Frequently he gets phone conversations from top civil servants or high-ranking soldiers in Delhi asking him when the street will open.
He has put a safety deposit box in the walls of his large insect-infested offices to keep workers' salaries, subcontractor papers and his most loyal friend in the fight against the jungle: his cards. The Lawngtlai is a dead-end street on the outskirts of the state of Mizoram (1. 1 million inhabitants), even at the end of the north-eastern part of India.
Mizoram has been surviving in poverty-stricken solitary confinement for hundreds of years. It is almost surrounded by the Myanmar frontier on one side and Bangladesh on the other, and is dependent on state support. But the street is supposed to make a difference. As it leaves Lawngtlai, the motorway will travel 90 km through the jungles before it reaches the Burma frontier.
It is being built with the help of India. At a stroke, the insulated northeast will be linked to the wealthy southeast of Asia once the entire $1.3 billion worth of projects is completed. The Prime Minster of India, Narendra Modi, then hoped to link Gujarat in the west of India with Mizoram and at last implement the Look-East politics initially devised in the 1990s.
He pauses at the gateway to the new "street", watched over by a guard, to marvel at his work by taking a position in his beloved safety guard. Right now the street is an ochre-coloured strip of soil that cuts through the slope. About 30 employees have died as a result of Malaria or an accident.
After an avalanche of mud on the street, the workmen have forfeited the number of starts they had to make again. While we could make wider cutting, with a smoother gradient, we have to meet the Delhi standard.... and the budgets. During the first few clandestine working hours, the workmen worked under policing control to prevent them from being attacked by indigenous peoples, upset by the absence of reparation for their losses of lands.
Unfortunately, there were so many that they made up more than the Mizoram. What would a Delhi office clerk think that delay can spend valuable amounts of valuable latency on paper before the onset of the rainy monsoons and cause a delay of a fortnight? The machinery is at a standstill and the workmen still have to be remunerated because they have nowhere else to go.
It is the same with concrete, truckloads of it loaded from the state of Meghalaya, or Assam petrol, both bordering Mizoram. "Will not the street destroy this verdant harbour? Is it really going to help Mizoram and his people," he asks. Attempting to shake off his doubt that he could open a store on the frontier after completion of the work.
Downside at the frontier, there will always be a need for gear, power supplies, light bulbs and switches," Lalremruata states. He' already told his spouse that he will take them and their kids to Myanmar to show them the seas. It will cut the Kolkata motorway in half to 930 km and bring the Indian heartland nearer to the north-east.
On the other end of the NH-502A, the Bru or Reang, the humans have already begun to adapt. About eighty couples have pushed their shelters down the hillside to re-build them on the edge of the currently uncompleted street. "This street allows us to offer what we collect to the buyers in Lawngtlai without having to deal with middlemen," they say with a big grin.
We' ve got no cash to spend, even less to buy a motorbike and ride down the road," he says. Seated on a mat of grass, we spoke to several inhabitants of the villages about how they imagined "a street full of trucks". One teacher who recently relocated to a "model village", a project incubated by Myanmar residents, is a sceptic.
Those who live at the end of the street here are not interested in Asia or the Indian Ocean, which will alter their everyday-life. Motorists have alerted them that once the motorway is open, they must show their documents and go through custom when they go to Myanmar to visit family.