The Shillong – Nongstoin – Tura road may not reduce the travel distance between the headquarters of two diverse regions of the state, but it will surely bridge the gap between the Khasi-Jaintia and Garo people. The distance between Shillong and Tura via Nongstoin is 311 km while the present main route via Assam is 314-km long. The Assam part of the road – more than 50% – being mostly plain and straight and the Shillong-Guwahati road is now four-lane, it might take one longer via Nongstoin. But the under construction road once complete might change the whole dynamics of the state. It might change the relationship between two ethnically diverse regions for better, in a much faster manner.
Both Khasi-Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills are famous for tourism spots. While Khasi-Jaintia Hills, especially Cherrapunjee (or Sohra), is almost overloaded with tourists throughout the year, anyone hardly bother visiting Garo Hills despite having places like Balpakram National Park, Nokrek Biosphere Reserve and Siju Caves etc. Even though some foreign tourists and those from outside the state occasionally visit the spots in Garo Hills, the tourist flow from Khasi-Jaintia Hills is very negligible. Dominance of insurgency in Garo Hills is not the sole reason for the wide gap. Nor it is the language barrier. Ask any transporter at Nongstoin, how far is Tura from there; there will be very few to give the right answer. It is actually the lack of a proper road that kept the gap between the regions wide for decades. The new Shillong-Nongstoin-Tura road might change the dynamics.
If not all, a major portion of the traffic going through Assam while plying between Shillong and Guwahati will divert to the new road, likely by next year. Garo politicians are expected to take the lead in opting the route so as to promote it. There will be initial issues like lack of roadside amenities, but as traffic starts flowing the amenities will come up gradually. There could be law and order problem too as criminal elements might the take chance of deserted road and lack of vigilance. The government will have to ensure the security until the people-to-people contact increases reaches a point where such elements may not dare to act. The Meghalaya Transport Corporation must take the lead by introducing regular services on the route. Finally, the road has to be maintained well before overloaded trucks turn it into a travellers’ nightmare.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 14, 2016)