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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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End of the road for showpiece
- Waterlogged, cratered drive from airport

When Amit Tiwary landed in Calcutta on Sunday morning after a nine-day trip to Delhi, he had no idea that the toughest leg of the journey back home had only just begun.

His family members had cautioned him against taking VIP Road, a part of which had caved in during the downpour and another that was blocked by Bangur Avenue residents pumping out water from their low-lying locality, off the city’s main link with the airport.

So, the businessman on his way to his Free School Street home took what he thought would be the zip-zap-zoom corridor to Salt Lake.

The showpiece road is part of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s grand plan to make Calcutta the golden gateway to the east.

But Tiwary was in for a nasty surprise. The drive along the 15-km New Town Road proved a nightmare. The first km was completely submerged. A succession of waterlogged and cratered stretches followed between the airport and the Sector V information technology hub.

“Reaching Calcutta from Delhi was far easier than getting to my home from the airport. My chauffeur and I broke into a sweat,” said Tiwary.

The government promise of a 15-minute drive from Salt Lake to the airport has developed a puncture on New Town Road. It takes at least 45 minutes to cover the stretch and with the service roads on either side inundated, there is no way out for motorists.

“The areas worst hit by the deluge, like Amherst Street, are back in business, but this road is still flooded despite very little rain over the past two days. We cannot even leave our houses,” said Shree Vardhan Kedia, a resident of Club Town, in New Town.

The condition is no better at the Salt Lake-end of the road. Cars zigzag down the stretch to avoid falling into a pothole.

But the authorities will not be spurred into action. The stand of Hidco, which maintains the road, is clear from the statement of the housing minister, Goutam Deb.

“This is not new. Every monsoon, the condition of the road deteriorates and we undertake repairs after the rains stop. This time, too, the condition of the road will remain the same as long as the monsoon continues,” he said.

VIP Road, the other link with the airport, is dotted with potholes filled with water and boulders. “We need at least three sunny days after the repairs are carried out. Otherwise, the road will deteriorate again,” said a public works department official.

“The authorities try to fool the people by carrying out patchwork repairs. But the rain washes away the road surface,” said trader Arif Ali, at the Nawabpur bend, which leads to the flyover connecting VIP Road to New Town. “Instead of signposts saying ‘Sharp Bends Ahead’, they should put up boards warning motorists of ‘Craters Ahead’.”

The sorry state of the expressway has angered the Sector V companies. “The government should take a pro-active step and close down New Town Road. Keeping it open is inviting accidents,” said Siddhartha Mukherjee, the vice-president of Cognizant Technology Solutions. An employee of the company died in a two-wheeler mishap on the road in March this year.

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