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Court ruling lost in transit
- Roy calls for probe into overloading

Jamshedpur/Ranchi, July 28: Commercial vehicles, especially trucks, found guilty of overloading cannot proceed after simply paying a fine.

A Supreme Court ruling dating back to 2003, claimed BJP legislator Sarayu Roy in Jamshedpur today, clearly laid down that the extra materials, in all such cases, should first be unloaded, confiscated and a fine imposed before allowing the vehicles to proceed.

But the direction is being flouted by transporters and reputed private and public companies, said Roy, putting the state exchequer to huge losses. The violation is continuing with the connivance of the authorities, he alleged, demanding a CBI inquiry.

Roy named companies such as Tata Steel, Central Coalfields Ltd and Bharat Coking Coal Ltd, among others, and claimed he had sufficient proof to support his contention. A large number of violators in the state, he declared, happen to be from the iron and steel sector.

While Supreme Court had interpreted and expanded the provision of “compounding” under section 200 of the Motor Vehicles Act, a communiqué issued by the Union ministry of road transport and highways in November 2005 had also laid down the law.

To his knowledge, said the legislator, the provision is being strictly complied with in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. But while it is being violated in many other states, in Jharkhand the violation is both brazen and rampant, he claimed.

Referring to the poor maintenance of NH-33, which links Jharkhand to Bihar as well as the Delhi and Mumbai highways, the legislator circulated a copy of a letter from National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to the Jamshedpur Truck Owners’ Association.

On NH-33, says the letter, trucks are allowed to carry up to 30 tonnes of material. But most of the trucks, it alleges, carry 65 to 80 tonnes. The issue is snowballing after NH-33 was virtually shut down for over 48 hours this week between Ranchi and Jamshedpur following breakdown of two trucks, which blocked the width of the road. Thousands of vehicles were stranded.

NH-33 stretches from Bahragora to Barhi for around 350km. While NHAI maintains NH-2, that is the Grand Trunk Road, the NH division of the road construction department is entrusted with the maintenance of 1,652 km of National Highways in the state.

The division is manned by an army of 90 engineers, which, in other words means that each of these engineers has to look after a stretch of less than 20 km. But, strangely, the department still claims to be ignorant of bad road conditions and is in the process of launching a public helpline to enable people to provide information about potholes.

NHAI’s liaison officer in the state B.K. Sahay claims that the Centre has provided the NH division in the state Rs 220cr under the plan head and Rs 120cr under the non-plan head between 2001 and 2007. Out of this central allocation, the NH division is said to have spent Rs 280cr during the past six years.

But the amount is inadequate, claims engineer-in-chief H.N. Chatterjee. The central grant, he says, is just one-fourth of the annual requirement and hence the entire length of NH never gets repaired.

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