Armstrong Pame is the first from the Zeme tribe of Nagaland to become an IAS officer and has earned the sobriquet ‘Miracle Man’ for building a 100 km long road famously known as the “Peoples’ Road” connecting Manipur to Nagaland and Assam in a remote part of the hilly state of Manipur without any government help.
Armstrong Pame is a harbinger of change and has brought joy to the people f Tousem, a Manipur subdivision considered one of India’s most backward reigons, by giving them what they needed most — a motorable road that connects them to the outside world.
Armstrong Pame comes from Impa village of Tousem Sub-division, Tamenglong district of Manipur where there is no road communication except the British bridle path that links with his village from Tamenglong. He belongs to Zeme speaking group of Zeliangrong community. He is the second son of Shri Haitung Pame and Ningwangle. His elder brother Jeremiah Pame is a Lecturer in the department of English at Delhi University. His two elder sisters Pourei and Ramning, as well as his nephew Simon, gave all that they could to see him what he is today.
Armstrong Pame studied from United Builders School at a town school in Tamenglong, Manipur till class 10 and moved to St Edmund’s College, Shillong, and completed his class 12 studies there. By 2005, he completed his graduation degree in Physics from the prestigious St Stephen’s College in Delhi. He always dreamed of studying here; and he started to realize another childhood dream – to be an IAS officer.
Armstrong Pame appeared for the Civil Services Examination in 2007 and got Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in Custom and Central Excise department. Any by giving his second attempt he got Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 2008 when he has attained the age of 24 years.
Difficulties that moved Armstrong Pame
The 2009 batch IAS officer was moved by the plight of 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.
Armstrong Pame said that after writing his IAS exam, he came to Tamenglong in 2007.He further said that since he had seen hardship in his childhood, he decided to visit 31 villages of Manipur on foot to see how the people lived and he recounted the incident that led him to launch the 100-km road.
Armstrong Pame said that in 2012, he became SDM of Tousem. He 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 he asked villagers what they wanted me to do for them, their only wish was for a road.
Armstrong Pame said that he asked the government for funds to build the road but his proposal was turned down due to paucity of resources. But he was really moved by the plight of people; so he decided to raise the funds on his own in August 2012 through Facebook. Armstrong Pame with the help of his brother Jeremiah Pame created a group on Facebook and reached donors who contributed Rs. 50 lakh for this project.
In August 2012, he raised 40 Lakh for this purpose through Facebook page. For his efforts in building road with donation and volunteers he was invited to Facebook headquarters in California. In 2012, he was nominated for CNN-IBN Indian of the Year in Public service category.
Armstrong Pame added, “charity must begin from home; so I put in Rs. 5 lakh and my brother donated Rs.1 lakh. Even mother paid my dad’s one month’s pension of Rs. 5,000”.
One night Armstrong Pame got a call from a person in the U.S. who wanted to donate $2,500 for the road. The next day a Sikh gentleman living in New York said he would give $3,000. And after the media reported about this effort, they never looked back.
Since Rs. 40 lakh was not a huge amount for building a road, Armstrong Pame convinced local contractors to give them earth movers and road-rollers for free.
Enthused by the way Armstrong Pame was able to put together the resources, the residents of Tousem volunteered to build the road, thus saving labour costs.
Sometimes he still cannot believe that they have done it. It’s a miracle. Armstrong Pame doesn’t know whether he can do it again.
Asked whether he faced opposition from the government, he 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”.
“But my mother says stop building roads and build your house first,” Armstrong Pame said with a smile.
When he was asked, during the UPSC interview, how he’d serve the nation, as he claimed, if he didn’t get posted to his state and was instead posted somewhere in Tamil Nadu. To this he replied: “Poverty, hunger and thirst know no boundary; they are the same. So I am willing to work in any part of the country.”