Alms drive for highway repairs

www.telegraphindia.com

Jalpaiguri, Aug. 19: Members of a local association today "begged" from commuters and drivers on the NH31D to collect funds which they said they would give the National Highways Authority of India as a mark of protest for not repairing the road.

The 107km road between Siliguri and Falakata in the Dooars is in a bad condition with craters dotting it.

The members of the Samaj Nadi Bachao Committee that carried out the collection drive near the Teesta Bridge for five hours from 11am said the NHAI had claimed that a funds crisis was the reason for not taking up maintenance work.

Association members said the state government and the Congress had supported their drive.

"The NHAI has been talking about lack of funds that's preventing them from doing the repairs and that is why we have been stopping buses, trucks and private vehicles and begging for money so that we can hand over cash to the authorities," said Sanjib Chatterjee, the convenor of the samity.

"People have given us amounts between Rs 10 and Rs 50. We will hand over the total sum of Rs 8,800 collected today to the NHAI on Tuesday. Although the amount is insignificant, we will hand it over to them as a mark of protest," he said.

On a trip to north Bengal on July 10, chief minister Mamata Banerjee made a bone-rattling journey on NH31D while going from Bagdogra to Jalpaiguri. She had complained about the condition of the road after which Trinamul protested outside the NHAI's office in Siliguri.

The highway authority had said then it would repair the road in a week.

That was done but the repair was temporary ' the NHAI just levelled the dented parts but did not tar the road ' and the potholes have come back.

The technical director of NHAI, Siliguri division, Pankaj Mishra, today said the repair of NH31D would be completed by November.

"At the end of last year, we did repairs on the Teesta Bridge and the Jaldhaka Bridge and the adjoining stretches through a contractor. But he stopped the work halfway. We had to issue a fresh tender. The tendering process has been finalised and work will start soon. We hope to complete it by November. We had received Rs 1.25 crore from the Centre for the project," he said.

The highway connects Siliguri to the Northeast.

Sources in the district administration said soon after Mamata expressed her anger at the NHAI officials, the PWD's highway division drew up a report on the status of roads.

The report was submitted to the district administration on July 27.

According to the report, NH31D was practically non-existent in Jalpaiguri, Mainaguri, Dhupguri and Falakata.

The surface tar of the road at the Teesta Bridge had come off in several places despite the NHAI's repairs.

For repairs on NH31, the state government had also allocated funds. Sources in the district PWD said Rs 13 crore had been allocated by the state to repair NH31 between Rajabhatjhawa and Jaigaon and 95 per cent of the work is complete.

"Another Rs 2 crore has been allocated for repairing a 3km stretch between Jalpaiguri town and Chaulhati near the Bangladesh border. The work is almost complete. A sum of Rs 45 lakh had also been allotted for repairing a 1km stretch near Falakata police station (on NH31). The state has also allocated Rs 2.34 crore for repairing a 15km-stretch between Samuktola and Hatipota in Alipurduar (on NH31) and the work will be completed by March next year," said a source.

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