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Court clears blocked bypass
- Shaktigarh sweet shops ousted to pave way for Burdwan highway

Calcutta High Court has put its seal of approval on the long-pending Shaktigarh-Budbud bypass of the Grand Trunk Road in Burdwan. Its construction has been held up by a large number of shops, selling mainly local sweets. The shop-owners, backed by a powerful lobby, were refusing to shift.

The court held that the state government would have to help the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in the eviction drive to facilitate construction of the road. The string of shops, selling Shaktigarh’s famous langcha, would have to move elsewhere, the court added.

The project is among those undertaken by the NHAI to widen the national highways of the country. In the congested stretches, the NHAI had decided to construct bypasses to ease traffic movement. Accordingly, it planned to circumvent Burdwan town by constructing a bypass between Shaktigarh and Budbud.

A large number of villagers, especially traders, resented the NHAI move to evict them. They alleged that the project entailed the ouster of a number of shops and houses. A vast tract of agricultural land would also have to be taken over for the bypass.

Residents of the pocket, irrespective of political affiliation, protested the NHAI decision and filed a writ petition in the high court.

The petitioners told the court that the highways authority could construct the road by acquiring the land without disturbing the shops, houses and paddy-fields. The NHAI counsel, on the other hand, told the court that after an elaborate survey, his client had chalked out the project for the new road.

Trial judge Amitava Lala, after hearing both sides, delivered his verdict that the NHAI had the liberty to construct the road but would have to perform the job on its own and without any assistance from the state.

Both parties filed appeals against the order, which was heard by the division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A. Bannerjee late last week. While delivering its judgment on the matter, the division bench held that easy flow of traffic was imperative for the growth of society, and for traffic to flow smoothly, the condition of the roads would have to be improved. So, the decision taken by the NHAI to expand the highway was a step in the right direction.

The division bench also held that since law and order was a state subject, the state government should evict the encroachers and help the NHAI get the bypass constructed.

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