DIMAPUR (NAGALAND): Call it the bridge over the river Dhansari, the Kuda Bridge that connects the main town with the Hebron side of Dimapur is symbolic of the corruption that is so endemic and deep-rooted in the Naga polity.
Ever since last year’s floods that ravaged Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland, the bridge is in danger of collapsing as it developed cracks in the joints.
Concerned over its safety, the district administration decided to shut the bridge last year. But the move backfired almost immediately.
Being one of the few bridges over the Dhansari river that dissects the town, its closure led to massive traffic snarls, sparking a public outcry.
The district administration was forced to reopen the bridge and today traffic moves on the bridge as if nothing is amiss. The only thing that gives rise to suspicion is boards on either side that proclaim: “Cross at your own risk”.
Nobody knows who put up the signboards to warn unsuspecting commuters. But Deny Zhimomi, a local, said it must be the PWD as it is the authority concerned.
“Only two-wheelers and light vehicles are allowed to ply on the bridge,” said Dimapur’s newly-posted District Collector, Sushil Kumar Patel. Three other bridges collapsed in the floods, he added.
The bridge is not the only symbol of corruption in Nagaland. The roads are also a stark manifestation. That the town has bad roads is an understatement. Forget black-topped roads, here vehicles move on what can best be described as dirt tracks comprising stones, mud and dust.
Amidst this civic mess are sprawling residential bungalows with high walls, manicured lawns and tree-lined driveways. Inside, it is said, are houses with marble floors and swimming pools.
They belong to Nagaland’s ruling elite, from politicians and senior bureaucrats to top policemen and rich businessmen.
Yet, corruption is not the main issue among any of the political parties and the voters. “This is because there is no longer any trust,” said a senior journalist with the Morung Express, an influential newspaper in Nagaland.
“Issues such as corruption have never been important here,” said a tea-seller at Zeliangrong village near the main market. “The same leaders will get elected and the same problems will exist,” he added.
“If issues were important, then Irom Sharmila wouldn’t have lost the elections in Manipur,” said Neichute Duolo, a keen political observer. He was referring to the humiliating defeat of the human rights activist who lost her deposit in the election despite earning worldwide acclaim for her fight against the hated Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
But National People’s Party general secretary Roland Lotha felt things were changing. “People are fed up of corruption and the youth want development,” he said.
The test will come when the next government tries to bridge the gap between promises and delivery.