Trucks trundle towards Jamshedpur from Ghatshila earlier this week. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
When it comes to maintenance of roads, Jharkhand is a repeat offender. And its recent offence involves NH-33 — the arterial link between Ranchi and Calcutta via Jamshedpur.
Traffic bottlenecks are routine on the 2km stretch from Rankini Mandini to Ghatshila, 45km from the steel city, with even a moderate monsoon transforming potholes into yawning craters, not to think of what incessant rain could have done.
On any given day, one may witness a serpentine queue of vehicles — mostly multi-axle commercial carriers and some long-distance buses and private cars. The standstill often continues for 12 harrowing hours if not more.
Sources said NH-33, particularly the Jamshedpur-Baharagora-Calcutta stretch, had not seen mandatory maintenance for at least three years. While there was no cosmetic cure for warts, the highway also saw no respite from regular load of heavy vehicles or scorching summers and maverick monsoons. The result is a 2km mishap magnet.
Since last Saturday, more than half a dozen horrible jam sessions have occurred between Galudih and Baharagora. Two critical patients being ferried to Calcutta and Cuttack in Odisha remained trapped in the snarl on July 30.
“My brother-in-law complained of chest pain and we were rushing him to Calcutta around 7am, but were caught in traffic. Had we had inkling of the condition of NH-33, we would have taken him to hospital by train,” said Sitaramdera resident Vivekanand Singh.
Local MLA Ramdas Soren took personal initiative for a temporary solution. “I was informed about highway snarls on Sunday. I requested slag supply from Tata Steel to plug potholes and craters. We have started dumping slag from Monday,” he said.
The road construction department’s national highway division had started major repairing work on NH-33 a month ago. A corpus of Rs 7.5 crore was released for mending the 54km between Galudih and Baharagora by engaging Calcutta-based company, Adhunik Infrastructures Pvt. Ltd.
The contractor did mend a portion of the highway from the Baharagora end, but stopped work once a shower spell began earlier last month.
Chief engineer of NH division Murari Bhagat said since the four-laning project was on anvil, the NHAI had stopped funding maintenance of NH-33. “We got Rs 7.5 crore from the state and NHAI for repairing the stretch. There had been no maintenance for three years. We hope to undo the damage after monsoon,” he said.