A day after the death of sub-inspector Arun Majumder, the government announced that the public works department (PWD) would repair 30 roads around Calcutta port. But the “industrial” focus of road repair has kicked off a political controversy, with the Trinamul Congress accusing the government of pushing “investor comfort” over “citizen safety”.
The move comes after the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT), a central government organisation, failed to carry out the job due to a funds crunch. The prod for the pothole repairs has come from the industries department to ensure that investors scouting the area enjoy a smooth passage.
The PWD has already spent Rs 90 lakh on road repairs. The total length of roads in the port area is about 35 km. “It will require Rs 19 crore to repair all 30 roads. As far as funding goes, the port authorities are not very co-operative, though the roads belong to them and are supposed to be maintained by them,” alleged PWD minister Amar Chowdhury.
A few months ago, industry minister Nirupam Sen had requested the PWD to repair the port roads as a number of foreign investors had shown interest in setting up units in the area. “We have started repairing the roads, as our government has laid special emphasis on industrial growth in this area,” stated Chowdhury.
The roads set to be repaired include Hyde Road, Transport Depot Road and Taratala Road. The department will require at least Rs 10 crore to make 22 of the 30 roads motorable. The state government is expected to SOS Delhi for reimbursement of the sum being spent on road repairs. “So far, of the Rs 90 lakh we have spent, we have received about Rs 20 lakh from the port authorities,” the minister said.
Pointing to the deplorable condition of city thoroughfares, Sougata Roy of the Trinamul Congress said: “Most of the roads in the state are unfit for use. The PWD is neglecting the roads it needs to look after. The roads in the port area belong to the CPT. Why is the PWD spending money repairing those roads and doing nothing about the rest'”
The PWD minister’s counterpoint: “Our government is determined to increase industrial growth in the state and so, the focus on the port area.”
But Trinamul leaders are not buying that: “Yesterday, it was a police officer. Tomorrow it could be anybody. How can wooing investors be more important than protecting the lives of ordinary citizens'”