Ranchi, Dec. 12: Enraged over the tardy pace of a highway widening and strengthening scheme in a rebel stronghold, hundreds of Garhwa residents today blocked NH-75, which connects Jharkhand with Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, for over seven hours.
Led by former minister of JD(U) Ram Chandra Keshri, hundreds blocked the highway near Nagaruntari from 8.30am and stopped heavy vehicles from plying, demanding action against the snail’s pace of work.
“People had blocked the highway since early morning,” Garhwa SP Michael Raj S. told The Telegraph.
The Rs 100-crore Centre-sponsored revamp — 80km of the highway between Daltonganj and Uttar Pradesh border — started in January 2011 and was supposed to finish in January 2013, but much less than half the work has been done so far.
The Union ministry of home affairs had handed over the funds to the national highways wing of state road construction department, which through the process of tender, selected Pune-based Patil Construction Private Limited to execute the project. Union ministry of road transport and highways is supposed to be monitoring the project executed by the state wing and the contractor.
“So far, the agency has been able to complete only around 45 per cent. The deadline is January 2013. We may have to extend it,” conceded Murari Bhagat, chief engineer of national highways wing of road construction department.
Insiders said the beginnings were far from propitious.
The project was awarded to Patil Construction in 2011 after many abortive bids even though the Centre sanctioned it in the 2009-10 fiscal after getting a proposal from the state national highways wing to better the dilapidated NH-75 stretch.
NH-75 criss-crosses various key destinations. Originating from Ranchi (Ratu Road), it goes up to Uttar Pradesh border via Daltonganj, Parwa More, Garhwa, Nagaruntari, Muri Semer and Renukut, traversing 261km within Jharkhand.
The blockade also started an energetic blame-game.
Engineers and construction company sources, not wishing to be named, said conditions were not ideal for work. “At night, work gets halted. There are troublemakers who want to pocket money from the project,” one alleged.
Employees of the construction company also alleged that veteran JD(U) leader Keshri was “highhanded” and had been harassing them on some pretext or the other since construction started in 2011.
Keshri dismissed the allegations and blamed the construction firm for executing “sub-standard work”.
“The area has turned into a dust zone. The workers do not bother to even water the stretch during construction. A PIL was also filed in Jharkhand High Court in this regard,” he added.
Amid the dust of allegations and counter-allegations, residents are the worst sufferers. “My native place is Garhwa. We are the ones who endure treacherous journeys,” said N. Choubey, a Daltonganj-based teacher.