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Won’t suffer highway bumps, says Islampur

- Residents demand temporary district offices in town, fed up with NH34 torture ride to Raiganj

Islampur, Dec. 24: An Islampur-based social organisation along with local businessmen and residents has demanded temporary administrative infrastructure in town so that people do not have to hurtle down the potholed NH34 to the district headquarters at Raiganj.

The highway that connects Barasat to Dalkhola is the only road that links Islampur subdivision to Raiganj.

Train travel is hardly an option between the two places as there are no daily trains between the two towns, 110km apart.

If a resident of Islampur has to come to Raiganj for administrative work, he first has to take NH31 and come to Purnia More, near Dalkhola. From Dalkhola to Raiganj, a distance of about 50km, the highway to be taken is NH34.

The condition of the highway has lately made news after trucks broke down at six places on the Dalkhola-Raiganj stretch on the night of December 16. The result was a traffic pile-up that took 23 hours to ease.

Truckers and bus owners have refused to ply their vehicles on NH34 for fear of damage to the vehicles.

The Transferred Area Suryapur Organisation has been vocal about the formation of a separate district comprising Islampur subdivision and 19 mouzas of Phansidewa block, which is in Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district. It now wants the North Dinajpur district administration to set up temporary offices so that people are spared the torture of the journey.

“The condition along the Dalkhola-Raiganj stretch of NH34 is horrible. People living in different parts of Islampur subdivision need to travel through the damaged highway everyday for administrative and other work. We want the district administration of North Dinajpur to open the administrative offices here in Islampur immediately and depute employees so that we need not travel to Raiganj,” Chittaranjan Sinha, the president of the organisation, said. “Even if someone buys a motorcycle here, he needs to go to Raiganj for registration of the two-wheeler. It is difficult to travel through that road because it has not been repaired,” he added.

The NH34 under the National Highways Authority of India has not been repaired in the past two years, primarily because of a land tussle between the NHAI and the state government.

The NHAI wants to make the highway four-laned but the government is reluctant to acquire land for the project. The NHAI has said it does not want to do patch-work repairs, but build a durable four-lane highway.

“Right from submission of government taxes to registration of vehicles, we need to go to Raiganj for everything. Considering the condition of NH34, it is no longer possible for us to get the job done in a single day. The administration should open a separate cell, maybe at the SDO’s office here, so that we can get our work done,” said Damodar Agarwala, spokesperson of Islampur Merchants’ Association.

Bad highways in Bengal don’t just stop people from getting paperwork done. The state government has also realised that senior government officials do not want to go to far-flung areas to inspect development work because of the pathetic condition of roads. The state has decided to hire helicopters to transport officials.

Earlier, it used to take around an hour and a half to travel from Dalkhola to Raiganj. Now, it takes almost four hours.

P.N. Bhutia, the district magistrate of North Dinajpur, said repairs were in progress.