The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mired in misery under high road
- Construction of progress path paves route of doom for traders

Today’s Pain is Tomorrow’s Gain — the message in the mess that’s AJC Bose Road. But for many engaged in the business of living amidst the maze of metal and muck, tomorrow’s gain seems a bridge too far.

“The past 15 months have changed my life,” complains Gautam Jain of Gasper Petrol Station. The monthly sales at his pump, next to Exide building, has nose-dived to 10,000 litres from a flourishing 200,000 litres in the pre-construction days. “We wait all day for a car to drive in, whereas earlier, we would struggle to cope with the rush of over 250 vehicles every day,” says Gautam, cutting a lonely figure in the 50-year-old petrol pump dwarfed by the giant flyover.

The 2.2-km flyover — connecting Park Circus with the Race Course — will be unveiled to Calcuttans on August 15, say officials. But before achieving the desired objective of speeding up traffic in the zone, the Japanese-funded high road, built by Larsen & Toubro (L&T), under the aegis of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners, has brought life in the construction corridor to a grinding halt.

“My customers had practically stopped coming in since construction started in 2001. But the past three months have been the worst,” adds Jain, who has spent all his savings in the past two years to prop up the business and is now praying for the flyover to be completed. “I know the city badly needs a flyover. I don’t have any complaints against L&T or the government, but I know that it will take me another three to five years before I can even think of getting close to my earlier business volume,” says Jain.

With the monsoon setting in, the situation has worsened in the stretch between Minto Park and Camac Street. The roads are ravaged, the filtered water flow is being contaminated with underground sewerage, telephone and electric cables are all over the place.

AJC Bose Road is a cruel corridor of construction chaos for those struggling to do business here. D.K. Jaiswal, chairman and managing director, Hotel Hindustan International (HHI), says: “Given the condition here, people don’t want to come to this part of the city anymore. It’s natural that business is being affected and we are having to put in an extra effort by adding new attractions to get guests and customers.” The effort is visible even outside the hotel, with HHI security personnel doing their best to manage traffic and escort cars into the hotel.

Things are only slightly better at the landmark sweet shop down the dug-up road. “People are taking real pains to reach our shop; some of them park their cars near Belle-Vue. But business has really suffered,” says the young man manning the counter at Tewari Confectioners, opposite Gorky Sadan.

At the Russian Consulate’s cultural centre, too, the number of bookings on weekdays has “dropped drastically”, complain officials.

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