Dangers lurking on NH-6 – The Shillong Times

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Editor,

The NH 6, the new name for NH 44, has now turned a killer stretch from its entry from Assam in the North to the village of Ratacherra before entering the North Cachar plains of the Barak valley. Sad to say that the real NH from Guwahati ends at Lad Umroi, where one could safely drive as it possesses the most needed central divider, in the absence of which any head-on collision with these heavily overloaded trucks (I fail now to trust the weigh bridge licentiated or not) speeding with 12 and 16 wheelers means death to all occupants in small plastic defended small cars. And from Mawryngkneng to Ratacherra the stretch is nothing short of potholes at every metre or two letting ducks and ducklings to swim around.
Why this terrible state of affairs? The answer has to be given by the NHAI. About 12 years ago, someone had made a petition to the then CE P.W.D (roads). The complaint was that these 12 &16 wheelers from either side of our state of Meghalaya never shed the load they carry from the plains. The 2518 TATA factory permissible axle load is 25 tons (the nomenclature tells) and MOT GOI allows 25% concession that sums up to 25+7= 32 tons. In short, assuming they do not overload, the torque on the metalled road is not great. But in hilly areas like ours with the world’s notorious gradients the torque on our bitumen surface is far beyond its strength no matter how well the PWD performs its job. In the absence of double differentials (dumper trucks have such), our sloping roads are tortured and with monsoon these heavily twisted roads turn into potholes. If left unattended the stretch from Mawryngkneng to Ratacherra would have to be closed for all vehicles.
The saddest news is that this NH 6 has now also turned into a ‘Killing Spree Stretch.’ From Lad Umroi to Byrnihat, how many of our bikers or two=-wheeler drivers were killed on the stretch with no one ever knowing the culprit? At Sohshrieh not long ago, a Mahindra pick- up vehicle suffered engine problems. The people returning from their paddy fields tried to push it to the side for repairs. A truck hit them and about four people perished on the spot. As always the enquiry died a natural death. On such occasions insurance agents who are notorious for clicking their cameras on smashed bumpers or twisted doors than on smashed heads are never present while good Samaritans who happened to be passers-by frantically await the nearest kith and kin to come and settle payments with the hospital authorities concerned.
Last week a traffic policeman at 8th mile East Jaintia Hills was mauled by a truck and seriously injured. One person on a scooty was run over and killed a day after. These are few incidents that could be highlighted within the space constraints in these columns.
What sort of country are we living in right now? Windshields, which are a must for all drivers, are fully covered by the posters of celebrities, allowing the poor driver enough space to peep through a peep-hole the like the tank drivers in World War-2. Then multi-coloured bulbs are hung on the body and tarpaulin and our DTOs are too busy to realise that they are entangled with the all- important signals of dim red (to tell drivers the sun has set), bright red to warn drivers behind of emergency braking and amber for hazards and direction. And coming face to face with these during lonely nights is a nightmare. Bumper reinforcements banned by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari are tied to original bumpers. Our youth have to dismantle them right away on roads as ordered by DTOs through the police. But this is NOT applicable for these 12 & 16 wheelers for they have supporters within the State Secretariat.
And think of the babies with delicate ear drums and children who lose their hearing on account of air horns with decibels that are devastatingly loud. In no other country will such devastating horns be allowed. The Transport Department is toying with the Motor Vehicle Act. Had it not been for the traffic police banning the conical alloys, by now many pedestrians would have been crippled.
The Dwarksuid bridge built not by the NHAI finally succumbed to overloads of heavy machinery, tiles ,essential products and of course coal and coke from Sutnga. How the NHAI gave this work to an individual remains a mystery even in the State PWD. Trucks were diverted through Shillong and the Umiam Lake (dam) which just celebrated its golden jubilee in 2017. This is a recipe for disaster should the Umiam bridge collapse under the 50 tons gross weight and heavy engine vibrations. No one bothers about this although the alternative is to use the East- West corridor through Nowgong.
When will NH 6 become safe for motorists to drive comfortably and safely on? Unless this is achieved our lives will be lighter than the feather of a sparrow.

Yours etc.,

James Kharmih,

Shillong -1

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