The potholed stretch of GT Road that got the chief minister’s goat while she was on her way to Belur Math on Saturday evening was one of the better stretches of the artery passing through Howrah.
Mamata Banerjee travelled around 3km down the highway from Bally to Belur, a stretch that has only a few potholes near Lalbaba College, and in Badamtala and Kabulkothi.
The next 4.5km of the highway, between Belur Math and Howrah, is less a road and more an exhibition of potholes and administrative apathy — uneven bricks jut out here and there, craters cut across the entire width of the road and the soil under the surface on several stretches lies exposed.
“It’s horrible. The road is a key link between Howrah and Calcutta, and thousands use it every day. There are so many schools and colleges along the thoroughfare, yet no one in the administration is bothered to keep it in good shape,” said Ashok Prajapati, who owns a shop in Bally.
Sources told Metro that after Mamata expressed her exasperation over the poor condition of GT Road, monks at Belur Math pointed out to her that the stretch leading to Howrah from Belur was even worse.
Had Mamata gone to Belur from Howrah, instead of Bally, her car would have slowed down after every 100 metres and swerved right and left several times, Lionel Messi-style, to avoid giant potholes.
“It takes over an hour to reach Howrah from Bally, a distance of 12km that should not take more than 25 minutes to cover,” said a resident of Bally.
Near Jaiswal Hospital in Satyabala, the entire top layer has eroded and stone chips lie scattered.
In front of MCKV College of Engineering in Liluah, bricks rear their head dangerously. “During the monsoon the road often gets waterlogged and it becomes difficult for teachers and students to reach the campus. We have spoken to Bally Municipality about the condition of the road,” said an official of MCKV Group.
A few yards from the campus is a mall and a multiplex housed in the same building. Right in front is a 2ft-wide crater in the middle of the road.
The bitumen layer across the entire width of the road surrounding the crater has come off, while the bricks used to level the surface have come loose.
Residents and commuters alleged that the stretch has seen only patchwork in the name of repairs. “Brick parts are dumped in an attempt to level the surface but the craters reappear within a few days,” said a resident.
The public works department that maintains the road blamed the Howrah Municipal Corporation and Bally Municipality for non-cooperation. “The road gets flooded after a spell of heavy rain because the drains running along it are at a higher level. Since water loosens the grip of bitumen, the road surface disintegrates very easily,” said an official of the PWD.
“We have spoken to the Howrah and Bally civic authorities and requested them to immediately start laying sewer lines that would be below the road level,” said Karun De, the chief engineer of PWD.
Mamata Jaiswal, the mayor of Howrah, was unaware of the problem. “I do not know about this. I will ask my officers,” she said.