Dedicated security escorts inspire hope for NH-53 mission
Source: The Sangai Express

Nungba (NH-53), July 25 2010: In addition to their assigned tasks of escorting trucks and oil tankers along the tortuous and treacherous Imphal-Jiribam highway, NH-53, which is in deplorable condition made worse by the seasonal rain-fall, security personnel detailed for escorting the vehicles have been doing a commendable job by helping the transporters in whatever they could.

In the backdrop of the crippling crisis being witnessed in Manipur, it was heartening to see the security personnel deployed and detailed for providing escorts along the highway discharging not only their duties but also chipping in whenever required, regardless of whether it is night or daytime.

Security personnel in the midst of clearing the debrises along NH-53, beyond their call for duty

Two trucks carrying newsprint for The Sangai Express which left Jiribam for Imphal on July 5 could not be traced till July 28.Subsequently this reporter went in search of the trucks along NH 53 .

It was during this journey that the security personnel escorting tankers were seen guarding the vehicles day and night at the spot where the tankers broke down or could not proceed due to landslides or adverse conditions of the highway.

One IRB personnel who happened to share a meal with this reporter amidst heavy rainfall said that they were given ration money of Rs 10 per meal.

"Without food and shelter, we are guarding the vehicles at this abandoned place.

We just cannot leave them behind", the IRB man said.

The only shelter they had was their vehicles.

It was really an ordeal to pass a night between Kaimai and Nungba where mosquitoes were wreaking havoc on any one intruding their space.

To multiply the woes, there were no hotels nor any place where they can get even a single plate of rice.

But the security personnel were often forced to stay at these god-forsaken places for two/three nights at a stretch as one vehicle or another broke down or got stuck in the slushy spots.

On the other hand, Assam Rifles, Army and CRPF personnel deployed along the highway have been keeping strict vigil over the vehicles from early morning till late night every day.

At times, if any vehicle get stuck in a slush, the security personnel would get down to their feet joined in pushing the vehicles to safer grounds.

There were cases when the condition of the highway was so bad that it was quite impossible even for foot patrol.

There were instances when security personnel lost their foot-fold and slipped back falling flat on the mud, even to the extent of mud and earth filling up the gun barrels.

One AR personnel even joked, "If a gun-fight breaks out at this moment, the only thing I can do is run for safety for my weapon has been blocked by mud".

Telecommunication facility along the highway is practically non-existent.

Security personnel were seen moving from one spot to another searching cellphone signal.

It was a bizarre sight to see mobile phone handsets hanging near sentry posts.

Special attachments were also made outside windows to keep mobile phones.

On enquiry it was learnt that there were only two mobile towers, one at Khongsang and another at Jiribam.

The only mobile network available to some extent along NH-53 is that of Airtel.

One CRPF personnel named Sumit said, "Even if mobile signal is available on the handset kept outside the window on the attachment, communication should be made without changing its position otherwise the mobile signal would suddenly disappear".

As for the condition of the highway, it is still in its worst condition, loaded vehicles cannot cross the slushy and slippery portions without some pushing from excavators like JCB.

Even as the Government has been claiming that repairing has begun on full gear, there is little improvement.

Meanwhile, the State Government has stationed commandos and IRBs at five points along Awang Khul and Tupul to secure the highway.