For TT drivers, NH-53 is a nightmare
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, July 25 2010: Notwithstanding all the efforts and claims of the State Government to repair ImphalJiribam section of NH-53 on a war-footing, condition of the highway has only become worse so much so that oil-tankers are unwilling to take any more risk of travelling along the tortuous highway.

The oil-tankers are strongly in favour of suspending vehicular traffic along NH-53 for sometime so that the highway can be repaired to a serviceable condition during the intervening period.

Talking to The Sangai Express, some oil-tanker drivers narrated about the hardships and risks they face while travelling between Imphal and Jiribam.

The condition of the highway is extremely bad between Kaimai and Makru and from Makru to Nungba.

Drivers not only have to cope with the treacherous terrain on NH-53, but also attacks

With large numbers of loaded vehicles continuously travelling along the already dilapidated highway, there are spots which have depressed as deep as six feet.

Barak-Nungba section of the highway which was black-topped by the BRO has also deteriorated so much that not a single patch of bitumen layer can be seen today, the drivers said.

It is not only the bitumen layer, even the underlying gravels and stones have either worn off or sunk under earth.

As such, bare earth and mud make up the road surface which is dotted with potholes extensively.

These potholes are so deep and large that filling up one such pothole takes one truck load and a half of stones or boulders.

While negotiating and ascending these potholes, the heavy loaded vehicles were pressed to their maximum engine capacity, which, sometimes, led to puncture of all the four wheels at a time, the drivers conveyed.

The loaded trucks have no capacity to negotiate these potholes or pits on their own.

They could cross these depressed barriers only with the help of JCB or dozer.

Even then, those trucks which have silencer pipes on the front were compelled to remove it before ascending the pits.

In some cases, the valves fitted in the rear of oil-tankers got broken when pushed from behind by JCB while negotiating the potholes.

Once the valve boxes got broken, it led to serious problems when unloading oil.

At Imphal, the oil-tankers were directly led to the IOC depot at Chingmeirong without giving any time for repairing the broken valves.

While negotiating the potholes or pits one after another, movement of oil-tankers became alarmingly unstable.

Some vehicles have their bodies damaged when negotiating for passage with vehicles coming from the opposite direction on the narrow highway.

Though the Government's decision of making the highway a one-way route sounded very impressive, it has been causing much pain and troubles to the commuters as well as transporters.

Empty trucks or trucks loaded with shingles or boulders coming from Imphal were escorted by security personnel leading from the front.

Travelling as vanguard, the escort party would speed ahead and reach Jiribam first with some vehicles forming the front of the convoy.

But the security personnel would never mind for the vehicles travelling in the rear of the convoy.

Even though most of the vehicles could not reach Jiribam on the same day as security escorts, the latter would be leading a number of loaded trucks from Jiribam next morning.

The scene of the crossing between trucks heading for Imphal and those travelling towards Jiribam was quite a commotion.

The scene was quite confusing to the CRPF and BSF personnel deployed along the highway.

Unable to control the ruckus, the CRPF and BSF personnel would often resort to baton charging the transporters asking them why they came to the highway after knowing the deplorable condition of the highway.

The drivers pulled up their shirts and showed the bruises they suffered when security personnel baton charged them.

Under the prevailing situation, if any tanker breaks down or gets its crown broken in the middle of the highway, there is no way for a mechanic from Imphal to reach the vehicle .

Saying that they have been earning livelihood of their families from their profession of being drivers, the oil-tankers drivers clarified that they have no grudge against NH 53 .

"But our prayer is repair the highway first to a serviceable condition.

We would definitely go on NH 53 once the situation improves even by a little", the drivers added.