It’s official, the bad roads of Bengal force good investors to steer clear. Pressing the panic button, on behalf of the government, is commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen, who is learnt to have impressed upon key ministers that the pitiable road conditions in Calcutta and elsewhere in the districts are proving a “serious impediment” to growth.
Sources said Sen called up public works department (PWD) minister Amar Chowdhury earlier this week and sought his help to repair two arterial stretches — Hyde Road and Transport Depot Road — addresses of some prominent industrial units near Taratala. Sen urged Chowdhury to undertake road repairs urgently, as the potholed stretch could put off a Japanese delegation scheduled to visit an Eveready factory on Hyde Road to finalise details of a possible collaboration.
“If the Japanese investors change their plans due to the bad roads, we will get a bad name. Please do something to make the roads there motorable,” Sen told Chowdhury, who later submitted an estimate of Rs 60 lakh for repairing Hyde Road and Transport Depot Road.
The PWD minister said: “We have no funds to repair the road. So we will have to ask the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT), under whose jurisdiction the two roads fall, to bear at least one-third the estimated cost.”
At the meeting, Sen is known to have made it clear that one of the government’s prime focus areas was the development of roads approaching and leaving the city. Chowdhury, in turn, pointed out that the situation was “far more alarming” in the districts where the government had launched a campaign for industrial investment.
“If we don’t carry out maintenance work on some of these stretches, the state’s road network will be on the verge of collapse this monsoon,” he reportedly warned Sen.
PWD officials said their engineers were sitting idle in the face of a cash crunch. Even though Hudco has sanctioned a sum of Rs 150 crore — exclusively for widening and maintenance of major district roads — in January, the finance department has not released the funds in the PWD’s “peak working season”, they alleged.