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Season of rough ride in Siliguri

Siliguri, June 24: Septuagenarian Asha Agarwal was thrown off a cycle-rickshaw by the impact of the wheels hitting a pothole two weeks back when she was taking her grandson to Mahabirstan, the town’s market hub.

The two were lucky to have escaped with a few scratches. Every monsoon, Siliguri residents negotiate numerous water-filled craters on the road and fall off their vehicles.

Santanu Bhattacharya was not as fortunate as Asha. When his bicycle fell on the uneven road in Hakimpara, the youth fractured his right hand.

Days back, Ratan Saha and wife Sujata fell off their bike in Deshbandhupara in the heart of Siliguri and injured themselves.

The Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) that is tasked to mend and tar the roads had an astonishing reaction to such accidents and queries on road repairs.

One member mayor-in-council said the civic body did not have data on how much road surface it was supposed to maintain. He also said that his department was waiting for a “dry day” in this monsoon to start repairs.

“We do not have data, records or sketches of roads under our jurisdiction. We do not know how many kilometres of road we have to maintain,” said Krishna Pal, the Trinamul Congress member mayor-in-council (PWD) in the SMC.

“Recently, we got Rs 50 lakh (from the state government) to repair potholes. However, as the monsoon has started, we are waiting for dry days to begin repairs,” Pal said.

The MIC also cited “acute shortage of technical staff” in his department, “which makes it tough to carry out road repairs”.

“When the Left was in power at the SMC, there was no practice of keeping a status report on roads. We took over the board in July last year and we are introducing some changes now,” he said.

The residents of Siliguri are not so sure about the change.

“The civic body, which is entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the roads, sits idle with no visible sign of intervention or repair,” said Rajen Pradhan, a resident of Pradhannagar.

“During Left Front rule, the road conditions were the same. It would deteriorate in the monsoon. Although the Trinamul and the Congress have taken over the civic body, there has been no change in the way the SMC functions. Common people like us bear the brunt as the number of accidents continue to rise,” he said.

At least five persons in this town fall off vehicles a day on an average during the monsoon, according to sources.

Pradhan said, last week, a resident of Champasari was injured when the driver of a truck lost control and hit him.

“The accident happened because the driver lost control on Champasari Main Road, which is dotted with potholes and with stones and pebbles strewn all over it. People often get hit by stones jutting out of the road surface when heavy vehicles pass,” he said.

Apart from Deshbandhupara Road and Champasari Main Road, Nibedita Road, Church Road and Hill Cart Road near Siliguri Junction as well as roads leading to the Sevoke Road are also in a bad shape.

“The civic authorities are aware that the condition of most of these roads are bad and they are in urgent need of repairs,” Pal said.

But Debesh Biswas of Lake Town said: “Every year, the civic authorities pretend to express concern. We do not understand why they do not take up repairs during the summer? It is unlikely that the roads would be repaired before the Durga Puja this year.”

North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb said: “It is true that the condition of the roads across Siliguri has deteriorated. I have raised the issue with the civic officials. Now that the monsoon has come, the road conditions will worsen. I will ask the civic authorities to start repairs immediately.”