Bharat Drive with the Mahindra Scorpio-N

We drive to Arunachal Pradesh in the Mahindra Scorpio-N in the inaugural edition of Bharat Drive organised by the Automotive Journalists Association of India (AJAI)
Mahindra Scorpio-N at the Sela pass at 13,700 feet
Mahindra Scorpio-N at the Sela pass at 13,700 feet Photo by Avdhoot A Kolhe

Casting a vote is akin to writing a love letter to the future—an act filled with hope and faith in a world yet to come. While it's a fundamental right often taken for granted, in some parts of India, exercising this right is laden with difficulties. In the Northeast, harsh climates and challenging road conditions can make even simple travel an arduous task. Over the years, we've navigated this tough terrain and witnessed the locals' struggles firsthand. However, recent infrastructure developments in Arunachal Pradesh promise to make travel easier. Our journey began in Guwahati, where the keys to the big daddy of SUVs awaited us, marking the start of another thrilling road trip.

Of course, nothing ever goes as smoothly as planned. On the day of our flight to Guwahati, the North was sweltering under a major heatwave, with Delhi recording its highest temperature ever. Our connecting flight from the Capital landed in Guwahati in the midst of a storm, showing just how large our country is. The Eastern coast of India was battling a cyclone, leading to major power cuts, fallen trees, and overcast skies, much in contrast to what was happening up in the Northern part of India. In such times, you need a vehicle that can brave the weather and tough terrain. The Scorpio-N, with its robust ladder frame, 4x4 capability, excellent ground clearance, and powerful diesel engine, was ideal for the job. JK Tyres supported the Bharat Drive by providing us with a brand-new set of Ranger H/T tyres, perfect for the challenging journey ahead.

Bharat Drive aimed at exploring road infrastructure development in India
Bharat Drive aimed at exploring road infrastructure development in IndiaPhoto by Avdhoot A Kolhe

The Automotive Journalists Association of India (AJAI) is a newly formed body that supports automotive journalists in India. Its initiatives include key events like the Indian Car and Bike of the Year awards (ICOTY & IMOTY). The first major undertaking of this association was organising the Bharat Drive, aimed at exploring road infrastructure development and its impact on democracy in India. All major automotive publications in the country teamed up for this drive, traversing the length and breadth of India to achieve these objectives. While some teams explored the benefits of new expressways connecting cities, we headed to the mountains to meet the unsung heroes behind India’s rapid road infrastructure development.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is spearheading the construction of over 6,000 km of roads along the China border, aimed at reducing hostility in the region. These roads aren’t just functional; they’re fast, winding, and well-marked, designed for both utility and enjoyment. Brigadier Raman Kumar, Chief Engineer of Project Vartak, shared insights into the massive road network expansion in Arunachal Pradesh. “The Balipara-Tawang road, which is a key link to Tawang and areas beyond, traverses many passes and mountainous terrains. The Nechipu pass has been surmounted by the Nechipu tunnel, Bomdila pass by the Bomdila bypass road, and the Sela pass at 13,700 feet by the Sela tunnel project,” he explained. These projects have reduced travel time by about an hour and provide year-round access, integrating the Tawang region with the rest of the country. “This development will facilitate easier access to healthcare, education, industrial progress, and tourism in the area,” he proudly stated.

Roads in Arunachal Pradesh once perilous and barely navigable, are now fast and flowing.
Roads in Arunachal Pradesh once perilous and barely navigable, are now fast and flowing.Photo by Avdhoot A Kolhe

Driving through this transformed landscape was nothing short of exhilarating. The roads, once perilous and barely navigable, were now fast and flowing, allowing us to cover hundreds of kilometres in a day. The Scorpio-N, with its reliable performance and rugged build, handled the terrain with ease. The Ranger H/T tyres from JK Tyres were a perfect match for the improved roads, offering a comfortable and secure ride.

Mahindra Scorpio-N in its element
Mahindra Scorpio-N in its element Photo by Avdhoot A Kolhe

While driving, we engaged with locals who had established new businesses in towns like Bomdila and Dirang. Owners of small restaurants and cafés shared their optimism about the future, noting that improved infrastructure had attracted more tourists and boosted their businesses. The positive effects of better roads were evident everywhere. Local transport between towns had become much easier, and the general sentiment was quite upbeat. The recent election season witnessed the highest number of voter registrations in India's history. It’s astonishing how significantly good infrastructure can influence a country. The Scorpio was present when the roads were challenging, and now, in its new form—the Scorpio-N—it navigates these improved roads with ease. We've observed this transformation through our windscreen, with the Scorpio being the constant in our journey to exercise freedom.

JK Tyres supported the Bharat Drive by providing set of Ranger H/T tyres
JK Tyres supported the Bharat Drive by providing set of Ranger H/T tyresPhoto by Avdhoot A Kolhe

Tyre partner: JK Tyres

The Ranger series of tyres comes in three flavours: Mud Terrain (M/T), All Terrain (A/T), and Highway Tyres (H/T). Now, since the roads in Arunachal Pradesh have gone from being goat tracks to satin ribbons of tarmac, the H/T tyres were the obvious choice for our jaunt through the Himalayas. And let’s be honest, when you’ve got a beast like the Scorpio-N with its 4WD system, you want to exploit every inch of road-hugging brilliance these tyres offer. Compared to their A/T and M/T counterparts, the H/T tyres have softer sidewalls. While stiffer sidewalls are the business for off-roading, on the road, they’re not as compliant. The H/Ts, on the other hand, give you a smoother ride. And that’s just what you need when the road surface, while mostly immaculate, occasionally throws in a dip or an undulation to keep you on your toes. These mountain roads put serious stress on tyres, but the softer sidewalls of the H/Ts soak up the impacts beautifully, delivering a ride quality that makes long-distance drives an absolute pleasure. When you’re cruising through the twisty, high-altitude roads of Arunachal, you need a good set of highway tyres, and the Ranger H/Ts were exactly what the doctor ordered.

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