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Horror highways of the north

Siliguri, Sept. 12: Two national highways and an alternative route between Siliguri and Jalpaiguri are in tatters and no repair seems to have been carried out to weather the monsoon.

Metro spoke to the people of Siliguri and surrounding areas about their every day highway ride experience.

Most of them said they never manage to reach anywhere on time because the potholed roads hardly allow the vehicles to move at a brisk speed.

The bad roads also multiply congestion and cause accidents. In the places that tourists frequent, a tour operators said he was “ashamed” to take visitors down NH31C.

NH31D

This is the busiest road in north Bengal. Every day thousands of trucks, buses and private vehicles travel to Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, the northeastern states, Bhutan and Bangladesh from Siliguri.

The road is supposed to become a four-lane expressway (as a part of the east west corridor) but the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is yet to start work as enough land has not been made available by the state.

For Ramesh Dutta, a bank employee who has to take this highway route to work, it is an ordeal. “For several kilometres, there is no bitumen cover. The craters have made the road undulating. It is dusty and bumpy, and takes a couple of hours from Siliguri to Jalpaiguri,” he said. “More than half of the buses have stopped plying and that makes getting a seat tough.”

Dutta said he rarely reached office on time. “Even if I take the bus at 8am, it can’t reach office by 10am because of the congestion and mechanical problems the vehicles have. This is entirely because of the road’s condition. Nothing is done by the authorities.”

The NH31D is the road down which chief minister Mamata Banerjee had made a bone-shaking journey and reprimanded NHAI after that.

NH31D alternative

The route between Siliguri and Jalpaiguri has a bypass stretch, too, but that is as bad as the highway, according to commuters.

The road via Ambari and Belakoba was the one that light vehicles took to skirt the congestion on NH31D, but nowadays buses, trucks and even trailers use the road.

“The road is single-lane in parts, which leads to congestion,” said Nitai Das, a driver. “This excessive pressure has told on the state of the road. There is no difference between NH31D and this route.”

NH31C

Bagdogra-Panitanki: This highway is under the control of state PWD (NH division-IX). The 21km road is used by residents of over 20 tea estates.

Those entering India from Nepal also have to take this highway.

“There are huge potholes, accidents are frequent and vehicles move at snail’s pace, making it tough for us to reach our destinations,” said Jiten Lama, a Naxalbari resident. “People have died in accidents on the route but nothing is being done by authorities to repair the road.”

For tourists entering India from Nepal, it is a bad experience. “We feel ashamed to drive tourists to Siliguri on this route. Their first ride in our country is horrible,” a Siliguri-based tour operator said.

Sevoke-Alipurduar: This is the lifeline in Dooars, and this is the highway that made the Chief Justice of calcutta High Court, J.N. Patel, file a PIL before his own bench to find out why the road was so bad. “The condition of the highway is deteriorating everyday. Bus owners have stopped plying their vehicles. People need to take trains or private light vehicles,” said Mannalal Jain, a businessman of Birpara.

Rail route

The bad road conditions has prompted thousands of commuters to take local trains. But train travel is no better.

“There is only one line through which every train, right from a goods train to a local train to a Raj- dhani, passes everyday and it is the local trains which get delayed,” said Dibyendu Ghosh, a college student who commutes regularly from Haldibari to Siliguri to attend classes.