BENGAL POLITICS IN THE NORTH: Strike looms on potholed highways, Threat to withdraw buses after Diwali, Buses to shun NH55 Strike cloud on potholed highway – no promises kept, no right to rule, time to pack up and leave now ?!! – maybe waiting for just before polls to garner in votes with a thin patch-up veil ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Siliguri, Oct. 20: Private bus owners have decided to go on strike once more after the state ministers failed to keep their promises and hurried initiatives of several agencies to repair the roads of the region fell flat on their faces.
The final decision on the strike will be taken after Diwali, the North Bengal Passenger Transport Owners’ Coordination Committee said even as junior PWD minister announced that he will meet the Union surface transport minister later this month.
For the past eight months, road conditions in north Bengal, particularly in Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and Darjeeling districts have been at their worst.
Hill Cart Road or NH55 that connects Darjeeling with Siliguri is still closed. A cave-in near Paglajhora has stopped traffic since June 17. The highway, NH31D, that connects Siliguri with Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar is in a more deplorable condition although the road does not pass through any rugged terrain as NH55 which is in a sink zone.
Only a slight improvement has been noticed on some parts of NH31: the Bagdogra-Salugara and the Telipara-Birpara-Hasimara-Alipurduar stretches. “Even after repeated promises by state ministers Asim Dasgupta and Kshiti Goswami that roads would be repaired on a war footing, nothing has changed,” said Pranab Mani, secretary of the transport owners’ coordination committee.
“There had been some temporary repairs like the filling up of huge ditches but within a week, the pebbles and sand put into the craters have come out. Officials and ministers are only floating tenders, speaking of allocated funds of which we see no sign, and fixing timelines, without actually making any sincere efforts to restore the roads.”
In September, the members of the transport committee had withdrawn nearly 1,500 buses from roads during a nearly month-long strike to protest the crater-filled unsafe highways that they claimed increased the maintenance cost of the vehicles. Nearly 1 lakh people were affected daily during the strike.
“We withdrew the strike then on seeing the inconvenience of people, particularly during the festive season. But given the present state of affairs, we are thinking of resorting to strike again after Diwali. There is no point in taking risk and plying vehicles on these roads. Once the Diwali is over, we will sit and discuss our plan,” Mani added.
He claimed that even after withdrawing the strike, hardly 250-300 of the 1,500-odd private buses are now plying in the three districts. “We cannot force the owners who are not willing to run their vehicles because of the bad roads.”
With the transport threat looming high, the government has decided to send minister of state for PWD Dasrath Tirkey to Delhi. “I will go to Delhi on October 27 and meet Union surface transport minister Kamal Nath and the NHAI chairperson seeking immediate steps to restore the road that connects the country with the Northeast,” said Tirkey said over phone from Calcutta.
“On our part, repairing and restoration of NH31 and the state highways, which are under our ambit, have started. Condition of NH-31D, however, continues to create inconveniences for lakhs of residents which is why we have decided to meet the Union minister and senior officials instead of talking to NHAI officials posted in north Bengal.”
Sakshi Basu, a daily commuter from Jalpaiguri, who works at a private company here, said hardly any change had been noticed in the road condition.
“For past six months, I have been travelling by local train. Whenever I miss the train, I fear travelling by bus as at least three persons known to me have suffered injuries in road accidents. All of them had been travelling on buses, light vehicles or two-wheelers on the Siliguri-Jalpaiguri road in past two-three months. It is not an exaggeration when people say that the journey by road to Jalpaiguri, Mainaguri, Dhupguri, Falakata or Cooch Behar, is a nightmare,” she said.
“The ministers may claim whatever they want to but the rush in local and express trains is unprecedented, indicating that people are not comfortable about travelling by bus.”
No NHAI official in Siliguri could be contacted.
Upgrade cry for cop camp – neglect that leads to rampant corruption, easy for Bengal to rule with such colonialist policies ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Islampur, Oct. 20: Water seeping through the roof in monsoon, snakes moving around on the campus at night and windows and doors eaten away by termites — this is not the condition of any haunted house but the police outpost in Dalkhola.
Functioning under Karandighi police station, 26km away, the outpost takes care of Dalkhola town on the Bengal-Bihar border, home to around five lakh people. Since 1960, the outpost has been working from this rented house. The police department pays a monthly rent of Rs 700.
“Considering the importance of Dalkhola, a key business hub of North Dinajpur district and the distance with Karandighi, it was decided in 1992 — when West Dinajpur was bifurcated — that the outpost will be upgraded into a police station,” a senior officer said. “The proposal is still pending with the state government.”
Those working at the outpost — there are 20 policemen including three sub-inspectors and five assistant sub-inspectors — said they were always apprehensive of a security threat, courtesy the dilapidated condition of the building. “We have a lock-up but the condition is so bad that it will not take much of an effort for anybody to give us the slip or damage the room,” the officer said.
In 2004, then chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb during a visit to North Dinajpur, had assured that the outpost would be upgraded. His assurance, however, was not implemented in the past six years. Whenever a new superintendent of police is posted in the district, he sends reminders to the state home department but to no avail.
“We are aware of the condition of the police outpost. A reminder has been sent and we are awaiting reply from Writers’ Buildings,” said Milan Kanti Das, the present district police chief.
Inside the outpost, the condition is equally pitiable. “We do not have enough tables and chairs. The seepage of water and dew during the monsoon and winter damages documents,” a policeman said.
Local people, businessmen and civic body representatives have repeatedly demanded an upgrade of the outpost.
Rajesh Gupta, the secretary of Dalkhola Merchant Association, stressed the need to increase police infrastructure to maintain law and order with the rise in economic activity.
Dalkhola municipality chairperson Tanay Dey said despite their repeated appeal to the state government, no positive outcome had been noticed yet.