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Trinamul threat to shut down NHAI office

Siliguri, July 11: Trinamul Congress supporters demonstrated in front of the National Highways Authority of India’s office here today and threatened to shut it down if repair on NH31D were not taken up in a week.

The protest came a day after chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed resentment over the deplorable condition of the highway that connects Siliguri with Cooch Behar via Darjeeling districts.

Mamata had seen the condition of the road on her way to Jalpaiguri from Bagdogra airport yesterday.

Later she called up some NHAI officials at the district review meeting in Jalpaiguri and asked them to initiate repairs immediately.

“She has passed instructions to state minister and party leader Gautam Deb to launch a movement against the NHAI and the central government for being nonchalant and not taking any initiative to repair the highway,” said Krishna Paul, the Darjeeling district secretary general of Trinamul.

Today around 100 Trinamul workers along with local leaders reached the NHAI office on Sevoke Road and took out a rally.

They displayed placards and festoons demanding immediate repairs of the highway.

“We had met NHAI officials in March and they had assured us of the repairs. But nothing has been done yet. Accidents, deaths and injuries occur almost everyday on the stretch. Today we made it clear that if the NHAI does not start repairing the highway in seven days, we will shut down the office. There is no need to open and run a government office which cannot address the problems faced by the common people,” Paul said.

Today a delegation of Trinamul leaders met Pankaj Mishra, a technical manager of the NHAI posted in the Siliguri office.

“We are equally concerned about the condition of NH31D. They (Trinamul leaders) met us today and we have assured them that basic repair work will be initiated in the next seven days,” Mishra said.

NHAI sources said it was not possible to lay a bitumin cover on the road because of the monsoon.

“It rained 1,200mm in Jalpaiguri district in June which has worsened the condition of the highway,” said a source.

“We plan to use the Water Bound Macadam (WBM) process to fill up the potholes and repair the road instead of using bitumen. A fund of Rs 12 crore has been sanctioned for this purpose,” the source added.

According to the the WBM process, a mixture of stone chips and clay is laid under a layer of stone and it is then compressed by a road roller.

“Till yesterday neither the NHAI nor the state PWD had taken any visible step to repair the roads, whether it is NH31D or NH31C, which crosses Dooars, or the state highways connecting subdivisional towns like Mathabhanga,” said Ajoy Dutta, a daily commuter on the Siliguri-Dhupguri route.

“Only after the chief minister expressed disappointment, the NHAI officials spoke of repairs today. The state PWD officials have got funds, but no repair has started.”