Panagarh, Sept. 6: The road to Santiniketan has become more tortuous and torturous for Calcuttans driving down.
A bridge cave-in a fortnight ago has put National Highway 2B out of bounds for vehicles heading from Burdwan.
The alternative route, NH2, is not only longer by 45km but stricken by a potholed stretch. The 25km road from Panagarh to Illambazar is so cratered that it sustains a cottage industry of automobile workshops along the way.
The distance between Burdwan town and Bolpur through NH2B is 48km. But the detour increases the distance to 93km and the duration of travel by around one hour. The ride through NH2B is around three hours from Calcutta to Santiniketan.
Vehicles cannot take the NH2B, which is a good road, because of the bridge collapse near Oregram on August 25. The structure gave in after the rain-swollen stream overflowed. “We have started repairing the bridge and hope to finish the work in a week,” a PWD engineer in Burdwan said on Tuesday.
Sources said the highway was expected to be reopened for four-wheelers by Sunday.
But no immediate solution is in sight on the cratered road. The Panagarh road runs to Moregram in Murshidabad, covering 171km and merging into NH34. The 25km stretch from Panagarh to Illambazar is also used by north Bengal-bound trucks and buses.
The state highway has been riddled with craters for years and cars are often saddled with flat tyres, broken axles and damaged engine and chassis.
Abhishek Roy, a private bank manager in Calcutta who owns a flat in Santiniketan, said: “I had a horrid time while travelling to Santiniketan with my family this Saturday. The front wheel of my WagonR fell into a big pothole. The engine oil chamber cracked. The oil spilled onto the road and I had to stop the car. Luckily, I found a garage where I repaired the damage. My family had to wait at a roadside hotel for over three hours.”
One man’s maimed machine is another’s meal ticket. Many workshops have mushroomed along the state highway in the past two years. The road has not been repaired during this period.
Zulfikhar Khan, 28, who runs a tyre-repairing outlet between Panagarh and Illambazar, said: “Earlier, I used to fix six to seven punctures a day and earn Rs 600 to Rs 700. Now it is not less than 20 tyres and my income has risen to almost Rs 2,000 a day.”
Police said at least 100 accidents of varying intensity have been reported on this stretch in the past two months.
“In our monthly district intelligence bureau reports sent to the government, we regularly mention the bad road condition leading to fatal accidents in Kanksa,” said S.M.H. Meerza, the Burdwan superintendent of police.
At a review meeting in Calcutta a few days ago, Mamata Banerjee had pulled up PWD minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar for the condition of the state’s highways.
According to a PWD source, the road was widened and repaired 15 years ago. Since then, only patchwork has been done, which is washed away during every monsoon.
Ghosh Dastidar said temporary repairs would start before the Pujas. “We are preparing a master plan to repair and renovate all state-run highways after the Pujas and funds will not be a problem,” he said.