Postal Highway controversy

30-meter broad road to be widened to 140 meters, locals warn of protests

Published On: September 15, 2019 08:20 AM NPT By: Binod Subedi

BIRATNAGAR, Sept 15: The Postal Highway which runs from Jhapa in the east to Kanchanpur in the west touching over 50 rural villages alongside the Indian border is a common dream of the people in the Tarai belt. The project, which is almost a century old, is still not near completion. While its status is ‘under construction’ since the time of Juddha Shamsher, a Rana Prime Minister, the 1792.4 kilometers long road has now been facing compensation-related issues in some parts. Locals of Rangeli of Morang district have warned of serious protests if the government goes ahead with the project without addressing their demand. Amid the government’s repeated notice to vacate their land, they have asked for compensation of their land as per the market rate. 

Ram Narayan Mandal, a civil society member who has been leading the agitated masses stated that it is not fair to forcefully drive the people away from the roadsides. While it is controversial whether the families have taken compensation from the government in the past, the agitators have warned of ‘strong action’ if the government continues to pressure them to free the land. 

“Many people here have purchased the land from the earlier party. So, it is their private property,” said Mandal. 

Since the highway is not a new project of the government, transaction of the land alongside the road was not expected or even legal in some cases. However, because the government failed to demarcate the border on time or even cancel registration of land, individuals went on buying and selling the land. Now, the government wants to vacate the land by hook or crook but locals are adamant on either staying back or leaving it if their conditions are met. “Either we must be paid reasonably or we are not going to go from here,” said Mandal. “Some families are going to be homeless if the government uses force to send them away from here,” he added. 

According to Mandal, over 20 families will be rendered homeless if the road is widened as per the plan. Now the road is about 30 to 36 meters wide and the government plans to widen it to 140 meters. This is likely to affect 250 houses. 

Speaking at press meet held on Tuesday,  Mandal further stated that the locals are not against development. “It is just that we want the government to act responsibly,” he said. “Or else, we will be forced to come onto the streets,” he added. 

Developmental projects have faced obstacles in several parts of the country for similar reasons. Be it hydro or road projects, the issue of compensation for land often halts construction.

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