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Chips fly off road, villagers protest

Suri, Nov. 20: Residents of Raipara village in Birbhum blocked NH60 for about two hours today demanding immediate repair of the 1km potholed stretch passing through their village.

The residents complained that dust kicked up by vehicles created a haze in the village throughout the day, causing breathing problems. The villagers also said stone chips ricocheted off wheels of vehicles and hit passers-by often. They said at least 30 people had been hit in the past two-three months.

The state public works department’s national highway division maintains the highway, 90km of which passes through Birbhum.

Sushovan Guha, the executive engineer of the PWD (NH), said: “Our officials today held a meeting with the villagers at the office of the BDO of Mayureswar-I block. From tomorrow, we will sprinkle water on the stretch (that passes through Raipara) to stop the dust from flying. We have floated tender seeking contractors to the repair the stretch. Work will begin soon.”

Around 10.30am today, around 200 villagers, including women, blocked the highway by placing wooden benches near a primary school.

“We have been requesting the local administration and the PWD for the past two months to repair the stretch but nothing happened. So we had no other option but to block the road,” said Chandan Sarkar, a Raipara resident.

Around 500 families live on both sides of the 1km stretch. The residents said the road was last repaired a year-and-a-half ago.

“Whenever we go out, we are forced to inhale the dust. We also have to be alert about flying stone chips,” said Banani Ray, a homemaker.

Elderly residents complained of breathing problems caused by the pollution.

“I have asthma, which has aggravated because of the dust. From dawn to midnight, heavy vehicles like trucks ply on the highway, kicking up a huge amount of dust,” said Suniti Roy, a 64-year-old retired government employee.

The roadblock was lifted after BDO Bishwanath Chakraborty called the protesters for a meeting.