Tausem: A young IAS officer in a remote corner of India is trying to make inroads in more ways than one. Armstrong Pame and his community are making a superhuman effort to build a road that will help connect hundreds of people. Only madness can define the resolve of the 28 year old IAS officer to build a road that connects Tamenglong in Manipur with Halflong in Assam without any government help.
Subdivisional Magistrate of Tamenglong Armstrong Pame says, "I feel once the road is done, the dependency on the government, their poverty, their health issues, their education, everything is going to change."
The distance is more than 100 kilometre. Armstrong's plan is to build 40 kilometre. He has already spent Rs 20 lakh on the 20 kilometres that he has built. In the deep jungles of Manipur, people are optimistic that life will be simpler once the road gets going. Azuram village resident Aking Rimai says, "All our living condition, difficulty and hardship will be gone, we hope."
But there is a method to Armstrong's vision and madness. As part of a Naga tradition, he has distributed salt in the villages in the hill district of Manipur. The villagers have repayed him with cash and their unconditional support.
"Now they have to walk on the road on their foot. You saw all the kids going home for winter vacation on foot. I think we have to do away with that. Today we are lucky that we did not see any sick patient carried on a bamboo stretcher. But it is a regular activity. We, the villagers we pull in whatever limited resources we have just to make it you know, to let the four wheeled vehicle ply. And just be motorable for namesake. Now we are requesting the government to come in a big way to make a bigger better all season road," Pame says.
These people united remain the secret weapon of this project. As work is happening on the road that has caught the imagination of the rest of the country, it is determination and faith more than anything else that stretches the idea of the road beyond development, it also promises to connect people of the Zeliangrong community from Assam, Manipur and Nagaland and get them closer.
The big testing time of this dream will be during monsoons. But at night as the Zemi Nagas dance in honour of their SDO, it is crystal clear that in this corner Armstrong reigns supreme.