17 Villages in Zunheboto File PIL Against State Government Over Controversial Road Alignment

17 Villages in Zunheboto

17 villages in Zunheboto District of Nagaland have taken legal action against the state government’s approval of a controversial road alignment under the Showuba-Pangsha 2-lane project.

The villages, with a combined population of over 20,000 people, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court, challenging the decision that they believe neglects their legitimate needs and concerns.

Vitolu Sema, President of Saptiqa Gaonburas’ Association, and Jevito Achumi, co-convener of the 17 Villages Public Forum, spearheaded the legal challenge. The petitioners argue that the approved alignment, known as option No. 2, fails to provide proper road connectivity to their villages situated between Mukalimi and Zunheboto.

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The disputed alignment primarily focuses on connecting Chishilimi village, with a population of around 1,000, while bypassing the 17 villages of Shesulimi, Awohumi, Kichilimi, Tukunasami, Nunumi, Shoipu, Saptiqa, Zhevishe, Usutomi, Shena Old, Shena New, Ghukiye, Kulhopu, Nikuto, Xukhepu, Zungti, and Hoishe.

The petitioners allege that NHIDCL, the implementing agency, deviated from the original plan and submitted false survey reports claiming the proposed route through their villages encroaches upon the Ghosu Bird Sanctuary.

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However, a resurvey conducted by a 4-member team constituted by the Public Forum found NHIDCL’s claims to be unfounded, as the route does not encroach upon any protected forest areas or wildlife sanctuaries. The petitioners accuse NHIDCL of fabricating reasons to neglect the needs of their communities.

For over five decades, the 17 villages have been facing immense hardships due to the lack of reliable all-weather roads. The poor road conditions have led to the loss of many lives, as residents struggle to access timely medical care and other essential services.

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The Public Forum warns that if NHIDCL fails to implement the proposed 2-lane project connecting their villages, they will pursue further lawful means to fight for their rights.

On 26 November 2023, residents of the 17 villages staged a peaceful rally in Saptiqa town to protest against the neglected roads and draw attention to their plight.

The petitioners have sought a direction from the High Court to the respondents, including the State of Nagaland, Commissioner & Secretary of Works & Housing Department, and others, to address their concerns and ensure equitable development.

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The case highlights the importance of stakeholder engagement and the need for inclusive infrastructure development that takes into account the needs of rural communities. As the legal battle unfolds, the 17 villages remain determined to secure their right to proper road connectivity and improved living conditions.

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