Where there is a will there is a way, goes the famous adage. This young officer has literally proved it using modern technology. When many scorned or ridiculed him, he did not lose his heart. He pursued his goal with devotion and commitment and the results are there to see.
He is a harbinger of change and has brought joy to the people of Tousem, a Manipur sub-division, considered one of India’s most backward, by giving them what they needed most-- a motorable road that connects them to the outside world. The opening of the 100-km “People’s Road” a couple of months ago has earned him the sobriquet “The Miracle Man”.
The 28-year-old IAS officer Armstrong Pame used Facebook to raise funds for building a 100-km public road. Armstrong Pame, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Tousem, which lies in Tamenglong, his home district, and the first IAS officer from the Zeme tribe of Nagaland, is the man who was instrumental in single-handedly taking on the ambitious project of building the road without any state government aid.
The road connects Tousem with the rest of Manipur, as also with Assam and Nagaland.
The 2009-batch Indian
Administrative Service officer was moved by the plight of the people when he saw how they had to trudge for five hours by first crossing a river and then a stretch that can by no stretch of imagination be called a road to reach Tamenglong, just 50 km away.
“After writing my IAS exam, I came to Tamenglong in 2007. Since I had seen hardship in my childhood, I decided to visit 31 villages of Manipur on foot to see how the people live,” recalled Pame.
Pame, who stays in his corrugated-iron house in Tamenglong nestled in the hills, recounted the incident that led him to launch the 100-km road, which has been christened the “People's Road”. “In 2012, I became the SDM of Tousem.
I travelled to many villages and saw how people were carrying sacks of rice on their backs, walking for hours and patients being taken on makeshift bamboo stretchers due to the non-availability of motorable roads. When I asked villagers what they wanted me to do for them, their only wish was for a road,” he said.
According to Pame, he asked the state government for funds to build the road but his proposal was turned down due to paucity of resources.
The residents of Tousem volunteered to build the road and saved labour costs. “But I was really moved by the plight of people; so I decided to raise the funds on my own in August 2012 through Facebook,” he added.
“Charity must begin from home; so I put in Rs 5 lakh and my brother, who teaches in Delhi University, donated Rs 1 lakh. Even my mother paid my dad’s one month’s pension of Rs 5,000,” he pointed out.
“One night I got a call from a person in the US who wanted to donate 2,500 US dollars for the road. The next day a Sikh gentleman living in New York said he would give 3,000 US Dollars. And after the media reported about this effort, we never looked back,” Pame stressed. In a short span of time, Rs 40 lakh was raised for the road.
“Since Rs 40 lakh was not a huge amount for building a road, I convinced local contractors to give us earth movers and roadrollers for free,” he added. Enthused by the way Pame had been able to put together the resources, the residents of Tousem volunteered to build the road--thus saving labour costs. “Sometimes, I still can't believe that we have done it. It’s a miracle. I don’t know whether I can do it again,” he said.
When asked whether he faced opposition from the state government, Pame said: “I was called crazy, but I was determined.” “There is so much to do for the people of Tousem, which lies in sheer neglect. I want to improve their lives in some way because I belong here,” he added.
Pame now plans to extend the road by another 10 km. His selfless work in a short span of time has earned him popularity and people now call him “The Miracle Man.”
Zingkeulak, a farmer, said: “our oranges would rot as there were no roads but after the People’s Road, we are able to make some money.”
“He is one selfless officer. And I believe I will never come across an IAS officer like him,” said Iram, a resident of Tousem, which is devoid of even basic amenities of life. “After giving road to people of this region, he is working on several
issues. He is the answer to our prayers,” Iram added.
Asked what was next on his agenda, Pame said: “There are many things to be done. One of them is to extend the road by another 10 km.” “But my mother says stop building roads and build your house first,” he offered with a smile.
In his blog, Pame said his parents Heithung Pame and Ningwangle Pame have always been supportive. He was staying at Impa village, 50 km from Tamenglong, since 1989 and it was unconnected with the outside world. It will take two days to reach his village on foot from the main highway. To make matters worse, there is no electricity in the area
My father has retired as a primary schoolteacher and my mother is a homemaker.
He has eight siblings – five sisters and three brothers. “My family has faced overwhelming challenges but we never gave up, “he has said.