The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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First casualty in road repair
- Tramway throws up hands, cites penury

The court rap is one thing, the ground reality quite another. So, brace for a back-breaking trip down the potholed path to the Pujas.

The day after a high court division bench ordered all those responsible for maintaining Calcutta's roads to submit a report within 15 days on what they were doing to address the mess, roadblocks to repair ranged from cash crunch to jurisdiction jam to blind eye.

Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said he wasn't even aware of Monday's court order, in which government and civic agencies had been asked to revert to the court within a fortnight with a progress report on road repair.

The Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) turned out its empty pockets to show how helpless it was. The CTC is responsible for the maintenance and repair of roads used by trams, which accounts for 68 km of Calcutta's thoroughfares.

'We will not be able to fill the potholes even with simple bricks . We don't have a single paisa in our coffers,' cried CTC managing director R.N. Pal.

'We are aware that most of the roads with tram tracks are in a poor state. Thousands of commuters and vehicles are suffering because of that. We also have information that accidents are taking place regularly and many vehicles are breaking down. However, we have nothing to say but sorry. We are helpless,' added Pal.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is sticking to its stand of not repairing roads with tram tracks. 'My point is very clear. Let the CTC repair its portion (18 inches on both sides of the tracks) and the CMC will do the rest. Tramlines damage roads and if the CTC does nothing, why should the CMC repair these roads' demanded mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

According to urban development rules, the civic authorities are responsible for maintenance of most city thoroughfares except Red Road, VIP Road and NSC Bose Road, which is managed by the public works department (PWD).

The EM Bypass and its connectors are maintained by the CMDA.

'We get an annual grant of Rs 4 crore from the government, 80 per cent of which is required to pay the salaries of 6,500-odd employees,' said CTC managing director Pal.

'We have not received a single paisa in the last three years, either for repairing vehicles or roads,' he complained.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty tried to steer clear: 'If funds come, roads will be repaired. Otherwise, I can only request Calcuttans to drive cautiously and walk carefully.'

PWD minister Amar Choudhury, however, had an eye on the court deadline.

'Only one PWD road, NSC Bose Road, is in bad shape. Cosmetic repairs will be undertaken before the Pujas and we will give the court our report within the specified time,' said Choudhury, before adding: 'funds are scarce'.

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