Nov. 5: The National Highways Authority of India has sanctioned Rs 36 crore for the repair of a 60km stretch of NH34 from Dalkhola to Raiganj, whose bad state has doubled the travel time between the two places and forced bus owners to take vehicles off the road.
“The NHAI has recently sanctioned Rs 36 crore for the repair of NH34 from Dalkhola to Raiganj. Tenders have been floated and highest bidder chosen. Work is expected to commence soon,” said P.N. Bhutia, the district magistrate of North Dinajpur.
NH34 is the principal highway that connects north Bengal with the southern parts of the state, including Calcutta. The two-lane highway is from Dalkhola in North Dinajpur to Barasat in North 24-Parganas.
“The distance between Dalkhola and Raiganj is only 60km and one-and-half hours is ideally needed for the journey between the two places. But it takes three hours nowadays. Raiganj is the district headquarters and thousands of people have to reach there from different places in the Islampur subdivision such as Dalkhola, Islampur and Chopra for official work,” said Feroz Ahmed, a lawyer and a resident of Islampur.
At least 75 private buses, which used to ply between Dalkhola and Raiganj have stopped the trips because of innumerable potholes on the stretch.
At present, 10-15 private buses ply the Dalkhola-Raiganj route. Other than these, around 200 government buses run daily.
“The condition of NH34 has deteriorated over the past one-and-a-half years. We have repeatedly tried to draw the attention of the administration to the condition of the road. But there has been no improvement in the state of the stretch and that is why we took the buses off the road. At least 75 private buses — 40 of them are of North Dinajpur and the rest of South Dinajpur and Malda districts — are off the road,” said Uday Bhowmik, the secretary of the North Dinajpur District Private Bus Owners’ Association.
Like NH34, NH31 is also fast becoming a potholed road. Part of the east-west corridor, NH31 starts at Barhi in Bihar and ends near Guwahati in Assam.
“Although commuters have to play toll for travel on NH31, its condition is deteriorating every day. The top layer of the road has eroded and in some places, the highway has simply sunk. When toll roads in other parts of the country are maintained well, we have to travel on the bumpy highway even after paying money,” said Rajesh Gupta, a resident of Dalkhola.
An NHAI official said Rs 5.20 crore had been sanctioned for the repair of a 133km stretch of the highway, from Purnia in Bihar till Siliguri. E-tendering has been floated and the last date of submission of bids is November 15.