A section of the dilapidated Postal Highway in Sarlahi seen in this recent photo. Photo: Republica
SARLAHI, Aug 31: Mahendra Prasad Karna of Malangawa was a small kid when he first heard of Postal Highway. Elders would say that the road will change the face of the region soon. He was in his teens and the highway was nowhere to be seen. People however talked about it on and on.
“Let the highway be there and our land shall be prosperous,” people would discuss.
Also during elections, political parties would give an impression that the highway is their topmost agenda. “It seemed to me that our development was dependent on that alone and how I wished the work got completed on time,” said Karna.
Now, he already has grandchildren of his own but the dream has not been realized. The project is still uncertain.
“Even some road parts which were blacktopped earlier are now dilapidated. The repairing or the construction never lasted long due to the poor engineering and construction materials. There are huge potholes everywhere, making it prone to accidents,” he lamented.
According to him, the Postal Highway was neglected due to the opening of the Mahendra Highway. And the succeeding governments did not give it due importance either.
“The Postal Highway had made headway right during the time of Juddha Shumsher. The highway was considered very important to inter-connect the headquarters of the Tarai region. But that old project never got due attention later,” he said.
Postal Highway touches over 50 rural villages alongside the Indian border. Poor condition of the highway means great inconvenience for the people in those villages. “People have been left disappointed. The road which has always been considered as a lifeline of the Tarai is in a dilapidated state,” noted another local from Malangawa Manta Narayan Yadav. “It is almost a century old project and yet so neglected,” he added.
In the eastern side, the authority is not clear even about the road track. In the southern part of the Tarai, the project has been left midway and the road sections in Province 2 have giant holes.
The then minister for physical infrastructure and transport Ramesh Lekhak had laid the foundation stone of some road sections and bridges three years ago in Sarlahi.
That had left people excited. However, the development in snail’s pace has now left them utterly disappointed.
“The contractor companies are not dutiful. And the authority is not strict enough to make them work. Just like many other construction works, the highway has remained in limbo here in Province 2 as well,” remarked Yadav.
Incessant rains last month further damaged the highway.
The road parts in Kaudena Rural Municipality were badly hit by the downpour where vehicles did not run for days.
According to Yadav, construction materials left at the roadside got collected in the middle and it disturbed not just vehicular movement but also caused inconvenience to the commuters.
“We go through such problem every year during the monsoon. If the road had been fine, we would have been free from such hassles,” he said.
Daroga Prasad, chief of the transport division office, Chandranigahapur, meanwhile said that the lack of budget has stalled the works.
“We have not received budget on time. It has affected the projects,” he said. “This time, it’s even more confusing, there is no clarity over who is going to release the budget,” he added.
The confusion is about whether the provincial or federal government will release the budget. And similarly, the division office is least aware about how much budget would be sent off.
Locals in the rural villages have demanded quick solution to the problem. The dilapidated roads have left Lakhandehi, Jhim, Manushmara, among other parts almost isolated.
“It takes several hours to cross 25 kilometers of the road from Chhatauna to Malangawa.
You can imagine the condition,” said Yadav. “Every monsoon we go through hell due to such roads. People from our village are left deprived of minimum facilities,” he added.
He also cited a few cases of medical emergency which could not be addressed due to the poor roads.