Calcutta, June 23: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government today found itself confronted with a potential political time-bomb — getting rid of encroachers to ensure faster rail and road movement.
Eastern Railway authorities put the government on notice when they said they would be forced to stop suburban trains on the Sealdah division if the government did not make an immediate move to oust encroachers from railway land along the tracks.
“We cannot be expected to run our operations because railway safety has been totally compromised,” said Dulal Chandra Mitra, divisional railway manager, Sealdah.
“Thousands of encroachers along the railway tracks have made it dangerous to run local trains. If no action is taken by the state government, we will have to stop running trains to avoid major mishaps. We cannot put in danger the lives of millions of commuters.”
In a separate but related development, Calcutta High Court today approved the long-pending Shaktigarh-Budbud bypass on the Grand Trunk Road in Burdwan. Its construction was held up because it involved the eviction of sweetmeat shops along the highway.
A division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Asim Banerjee held that the government will have to help the National Highway Authority of India in the eviction programme during the construction of the new road. The drive would mean a string of shops selling the famous langcha would have to move out.
The project was part of the authority’s plans to widen national highways across the country and construct roads bypassing congested areas. Accordingly, it planned to circumvent Burdwan town with a bypass between Shaktigarh and Budbud.
Villagers, especially traders in the area, were unhappy with the authority’s decision to oust them. Vast tracts of agricultural land would also be used up for the purpose, they said against the Central plan. A writ petition was filed before the high court.
A trial judge had said the authority had the liberty to construct the road but it had to do so without any assistance from the state. Both the petitioners and the respondents filed appeals against the order, which were heard by the division bench today.
The bench today put the onus of eviction on the state. The railways demanded that the government should take the same responsibility in its case.
In a letter to the home secretary, Mitra called for an eviction drive. “You will appreciate that it is not possible on the part of the railways to run the train by keeping the encroachers hardly within one metre of the railway tracks, considering the safety of the travelling passengers,” Mitra said.