The Kharagpur road on which patchwork was being done. Picture by Samir Mondal
Kharagpur, Jan. 2: Some private firms and a panchayat pooled in cash to repair a potholed road in a Kharagpur industrial zone but villagers have stopped work demanding the stretch be laid afresh.
The villagers’ cry that patchwork won’t do is a reflection of their rising aspirations after being compelled to use the bumpy road every day. Patchwork is generally the answer to all road problems in the state but hardly ever improves the quality of the road.
The companies, including Tata Metaliks, Rashmi Metaliks, Wellman Carbo Metaliks, Bansal Cements, Kalimati Steel and Ramsarup Lohh Udyog, raised Rs 14 lakh for the 4.5km stretch.
The Kharagpur I gram panchayat also donated Rs 10 lakh for the patchwork.
“We floated tenders for the patchwork. But when villagers came to know about it, they stopped the work, which had just begun after the Pujas. They demanded the road be reconstructed,” CPM panchayat chief Mallika Mudi said.
Villagers said the patchwork on the road would wear off in a few months as over 500 trucks ply on it every day. “Hundreds of villagers use the road daily. Over 500 heavy vehicles ply on it every day. Only patchwork will not do. The road has to be reconstructed,” said Apurba Majhi, a middle-aged farmer from Maheshpur.
According to Gurucharan Mahato, the contractor engaged for the patchwork, only 500m could be laid with the fund of Rs 24 lakh.
Asked about the stretch lying potholed for a couple of years now, block development officer Subesh Bera, said: “More funds are required for the project. I have informed the higher authorities.”
A senior district official said that at least Rs 2.5 crore was required for reconstructing the road. “We wrote last month to the panchayat and rural development department seeking the required funds,” he added.
The metalled stretch from Sahachak point on NH6 was constructed by Tata Metaliks in 1992 for its vehicles. But the road was damaged over the years as more trucks and trailers plied on it with the rapid increase of industries in the area, district officials said.
Five years later, Tata Metaliks handed over the road to the Kharagpur I panchayat, saying all factories that had come up in the area should “contribute” towards its maintenance.
“The road was constructed for our vehicles. People of 19 neighbouring villages also used it. Gradually, other industries came up in the area and a large number of trucks started plying. The stretch became potholed. We then handed it over to the local panchayat as it was not be possible for us alone to maintain the road. Every one has to contribute,” a Tata Metaliks official said today.
The panchayat, with its “meagre funds”, could do patchwork on the road for the next two years. “We filled the potholes with bricks or laterite blocks. But these were not that effective. The industrial units urged the administration to urgently repair the road. Even the villagers complained,” Mudi said.
The managing director of Rashmi Metaliks, Sanjay Patwari, whose company gave Rs 2 lakh for the patchwork, said: “It is sad that work has been stalled. It is the only proper road that leads to NH6 and Kharagpur. We continue to suffer. Heavy-duty trucks refuse to ply on the stretch with goods. It takes at least 40 minutes by car to cover the 4.5km stretch. It is supposed to be a five-minute journey.”