The 2km dusty stretch in Belpahari where construction will begin on Tuesday. Picture by Samir Mondal
Midnapore, Jan. 6: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will flag off the construction of a 2km concrete road in Jungle Mahal, where such a possibility seemed distant till a few years ago because of threats from Maoists to workers.
The road from West Midnapore’s Kankrajhore to Amlashole in Belpahari will be built with funds from the Asian Development Bank.
District officials said building roads in the area was a “tough task” as no contractor wanted to take up the job because of the fear of rebels. The Left Front government had taken up a project of constructing 750km metalled roads in the Belpahari area in 2008-09, but had to abandon it when contractors refused to work.
According to a senior district official, the Left government could construct only one road — a 5km stretch from Narayanpur to Muniyada — before the Assembly elections in 2011. Since then, no road project had been taken up in the area.
“The Maoists repeatedly beat up construction workers, burnt down pay loaders, earth movers, tractors and temporary tents put up for construction workers. This created an atmosphere of panic. All development work came to a halt after that,” the official said.
A zilla parishad official said tenders had been floated again during the 2012-2013 fiscal for construction of 117 roads, measuring 750km, in Belpahari. “But the contractors then refused to work at the old rates. As a result, the work remained suspended,” the official said.
The contractors have refused to work if the rates that the administration fixed in 2006 are not revised.
One of the local contractors said: “How can we work if the rates are not revised? They want us to work on a rate fixed in 2006. Then the price of one tonne of bitumen was Rs 36,000. But now it is Rs 54,000. The price of bricks has also doubled. The price of each and every item has gone up.”
But the project to construct the 2km road, a district official said, is part of another plan funded by the Asian Development Bank and would not be affected by the contractors’ protests.
According to zilla parishad sabhapati Uttara Singha, the government has planned to construct 18 concrete roads with funds from the bank.