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Tale of two roads

The road connecting Tank 9 Island to Mishra’s Island had been damaged for several months but a visit by the chief minister last week got it repaired overnight.

Move over to Sector III, where an 825m stretch on a road running parallel to the one in front of Nicco Park is so potholed that even pedestrians avoid it. This stretch has been lying in this state for at least four years.

“Perhaps only the chief minister’s visit to this neighbourhood can repair this road,” says a resident of IC Block, behind whose complex this road lies.

Midnight makeover

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee visited DJ 4 to inaugurate an administrative building that will house the SDO’s office on April 19 and the preparation to receive her started the night before. “I saw labourers coming to work at 11pm on April 18. They worked through the night,” says a CJ Block lady whose home is on the pavement that faces the SDO’s new office. She and her neighbours were scared of being quoted, fearing arrest.

The road in question lies between DJ and CJ blocks. On the DJ Block side lie buildings like Vidyut Bhavan, HSBC, State Criminal Records Bureau and now the new sub-divisional office. The CJ Block side is residential, peppered with some offices, banks and a parlour.

CJ Block residents claim that the road had been damaged for months. “The footpath on our side had been dug up a month back, for cable repairs but was never fixed,” says a senior citizen.

But from the night of April 18, residents saw a flurry of activity in their lane. The road (only the lane on the SDO building side) was repaired and washed. The footpaths and dividers were cleaned and its borders painted, new foliage was planted on the dividers, trees in front of the SDO building were painted and new trident street lamps were erected on the dividers.

“The road on the sub-divisional office side looked like a road in the US,” exclaims a resident. “They did more work in one day than they have done in the last one year. But they only fixed the lane the chief minister would be using, neglecting our side.”

There was some effort to smoothen the cable dig-up but work was shoddy, with the labourers admitting it was temporary work to save face in case the chief minister turned that side for a peek.

The civic chairman-in-council member in charge of roads, Anupam Dutta, admits that it was an emergency and that contractors had been asked to do patchwork on the roads overnight. He says the other flank will be repaired soon. “A contractor has already been given the task. He will repair both sides of the road in some time,” he promises.

While the pavement on the SDO office side is neatly done up with red and white tiles, the tiles on the CJ Block side are of different colours, shapes and sizes. They are loose too. The CJ Block road right opposite the SDO office has two pot holes and the edges seem to have eroded.

Light for a night

What’s worse, the trident lamps have not been switched on after the CM’s visit. “We were pleased with the new lamps as they are aesthetic as well as bright. But they stayed unlit ever since the chief minister left,” says a young resident.

Authorities say the lights would be back in early May. “The lamps were illuminated using temporary measures that day. For permanent measures they will need underground cables, the laying of which has started. It will take 10 more days,” said Krishnamoy Ghosh, executive engineer in charge of electrical and mechanical division, Bidhannagar Municipality.

On the day of Mamata Banerjee’s visit, all the hawkers on the road had been asked to clear out too. They were back the next day. The trash is back too. By Sunday there were thermocol bowls, plastic bags and dried up leaves piled up on the divider.

But by and large, CJ Block residents are happy with the latest development in their neighourhood. “Hopefully Mamata will visit this office once in a while. That seems to be the only way to get work done around here,” says a senior lady.

Left to languish

Perhaps the worst road in Salt Lake is the 825m stretch between GE and IC Block, parallel to the Eastern Drainage Canal. It covers complexes like Mahabir Vikas and the rear end of the National Institute of Homoeopathy. The rest of this 1,400m road, running from Jalvayu Vihar at the entrance of Salt Lake to JK Saha Bridge at the Wipro crossing, is made of concrete and is in good condition.

The entrance of Kendriya Vidyalaya 2 lies on the rough patch. “School buses have to slow down on this stretch. We get late for assembly,” says Sabuj Mondal, a Class VIII student of the school.

Sayantan Mukherjee and John Suman, college students of IC Block, cannot remember a time when this road was useable. “We would fall if we tried to ride our bikes here and our shock absorbers would get ruined. We are forced to take a long cut around the block just to bypass this awful stretch,” say the boys.

A reader, Sourav Dutta, had written to The Telegraph Salt Lake in December 2011 about this stretch. “The 1,500 students of KV 2, their parents and teachers have been traversing this stretch cursing the municipality everyday for the past four years. Repeated phone calls end with reassurance that it will get repaired but nothing happens. Can’t the civic chief do anything on her own or does she require intervention from the CM to get even a road repaired?” he had written.

Another reader, Sarmila Chaudhuri, on February 7, wrote that at times stone chips were stacked at the sides of this road, raising hope that work would start but nothing ever happened. “Are the authorities waiting for a mishap to take place before they repair it?” she asked.

The irony is that this stretch was supposed to be the best in the township. Back in 2007, work started to turn this road into a concrete one as that would last longer. The work was divided into three phases with the first being from JK Saha Bridge to the end of EE Block. The second was from Jalvayu Vihar to IC Block. The stretch in question was to be mended in the third phase, but the authorities ran out of money.

The road is the responsibility of the urban development department and an engineer there says work had got stalled for so long due to internal problems. Now the department has agreed to pay Rs 3.71 crore for the project and approached the municipality to build it. Anupam Dutta says they will soon float a tender and work will begin by June.

Inputs from Sucheta Chakraborty