A truck drives down the dusty, potholed NH31C on Monday. Telegraph picture
Alipurduar, Oct. 29: A drive down the dusty, potholed NH31C made a touring family so ill that some of them had to use inhalers and chose to sit in their lodge instead of going for a trip to Jaldapara wildlife park this evening.
A two-year-old who was in the group of 11 had difficulty in breathing and was advised a nasal drop and an 11-year-old boy vomited several times after the bumpy ride down NH31C. Seven in the group of 11 fell ill, several complaining of breathing difficulty.
“Our group has 11 members, two of them children. This morning we started from Buxa Tiger Reserve to come to a lodge at Madarihat, a 60km drive. From Jainti to Rajabhatkhaowa (15km) the road is very bad and from Hasimara to Madarihat (10km), there is no road. The stretch is full of huge potholes and dust. We never thought that a national highway could be in such a bad shape. Most of us fell ill and were suffering from dust allergy,” said Tanmoy Sanyal, a teacher.
Tanmoy’s family and his sister’s made up the group. He said his father, who has spondylosis, had to lie down as soon as they reached the lodge. “We spoke to our doctor in Chakdah over phone and four of us used inhalers. My two-year-old son has been asked to take a nasal drop,” Tanmoy said.
The highway, which connects Bhutan and the Northeast to Siliguri, has been in this sorry state for almost a year and a 14km stretch between Chekamari and Hasimara has become so bad for the last three months that most private bus owners have refused to ply their vehicles.
It takes more than an hour to cover the 14km in a car, when it’s possible to travel the distance in barely 20 minutes if the road is good.
Sanyal said they reached Buxa on October 27. “The plan was to take a safari in Jaldapara this evening, visit Totopara tomorrow morning and start for Gorumara later in the day,” he said.
The family was supposed to leave for Chakdah on November 1. Now, they don’t want to go anywhere. “We do not know if the Centre or the state is supposed to repair the road. As tourists, we want to travel on good roads. If the highway is not repaired, no tourist will come here. We have cancelled our Totopara and Jaldapara trips,” Sanyal said. He said only four persons who did not take ill went to Jaldapara, which is close to the lodge.
Most tourists who visit the region go to Totopara, Chilapata, South Khayerbari, Kunjanagar, Jainti, Jaldapara, Gorumara, Raimatang, Buxa reserve and Buxa hill among other places.
The bad state of the road is a cause of worry for the daily commuters here and during the monsoons, a number of accidents happen on the highway.
The PWD (NH division X) is responsible for maintaining the highway.
“Most tourist lodges here are along NH31C. In the 24 private lodges at least 1,000 tourists are there on a given day and 25 to 30 per cent of them cancel their trips to various places because of the dusty roads. Some are staying for lesser number of days than the booked dates. They are avoiding Madarihat because of the bad road. We are facing huge losses and angry tourists, although it is not in our hands to repair the road,” said Swapan Roy, secretary of the Jaldapara Lodge Owners’ Association.
Block medical officer of Madarihat Debjyoti Chakroborty, said: “The block hospital is just beside NH31C and a layer of dust covers everything, whether it is the indoor or the outdoor section. Many suffering from breathing distress and dust allergy come to us.”
PWD officials could not be contacted.