Fifteen security posts set up along NH-53
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, July 20: It is an irony that has become synonymous with NH-53.Barely 24 hours before the Irang bridge was blown away by miscreants, officers of the Indian security forces briefed media persons of the security arrangements being taken up to sanitise this route, which has been the haven of quite a large number of armed organisations.

Briefing a group of newsmen during the tour conducted by PIB (Defence Wing) on NH-53 on July 18, Commander of 27 Sector Assam Rifles, which looks after the Keithelmanbi to the Keimai stretch, Brig JP Alex said that following an intimation from the State Govt to sanitise the said route, troops began the exercise under Operation Suraksha.

The security personnel managed to push back the NSCN (IM) cadres who were controlling the stretch from Keithelmanbi to Oinamlong.

Not a single shot was fired from either side, said the Commander and added that the security personnel were able to take full control of the said stretch by July 12.Only one mortar shell and one grenade was recovered during the flush out from a field hut, said the Commander.

The AR troops also managed to capture a big camp of the NSCN (IM) located about 30 kms from the Operation Tactical Headquarters at Nungba, added Alex.

Brigade Commander of the 57 Artillery Brigade, responsible for the stretch between Jiribam and Keiphundai, Brig SS Rana said that cadres of NSCN (K) and UNLF who were holed up in the 40 km stretch between Jiribam and Keiphundai have been pushed back by the, advancing troops.

A large number of IEDs were found by the troops while sanitising the area, he informed and elaborated that the troops managed to recover 49 IEDs along the route.

The 36 BRTF which is responsible for the maintenance and construction of the road from Jiribam to Barak had suspended all work since 2004 after some of their staff were abducted by militants.

However with adequate security back, up the BRTF personnel started the work to clear the highway from June 8.Major Mukhesh, Officer-in-charge of the 115 RCC of 36 BRTF said that work on the road started the minute they were given security cover.

There are 13 bridges on the stretch between Barak and Jiribam, he informed and added that except for 3/4 bridges the rest are in bad shape.

However work has started in right earnest to make the bridges fit to carry the weight of goods laden trucks.

The 75 kms stretch between Barak and Jiribam is in bad shape, he admitted but assured that additional labour force of about 500 have been brought from the Aizawl-Silchar route and along with local labour, the work on this stretch is on in full swing.

The said stretch will be able to accommodate passenger bus and unloaded trucks, he said but added that the moment this stretch, will not be able to accommodate loaded trucks.

To make the road fit for loaded trucks will take another 15/20 days time, he informed.

To black top NH-53 and convert to the double lane highway will take another year, added the BRTF officer.

The Imphal to Barak stretch on the same highway is under the 25 BRTF and work has been progressing well under its Operation Sewak.

The Labour Trade Union, which is formed by the labourers working on the highway informed the newsmen that 500 volunteers are presently helping the 36 BRTF on the Jiri to Barak stretch.