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NH31D repairs for 69km stretch

- Deb says four-laning unlikely in final months of UPA govt

Siliguri, Feb. 13: North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb today said there was little hope that four-laning of NH31D would commence in the last three months of the UPA II government.

He added that the state has Rs 89 crore, sanctioned by the Centre last year, and the PWD would repair a 69km stretch of the two-lane highway between Fulbari, on the outskirts of Siliguri, and Dhupguri in Jalpaiguri district with that money.

“The central government is already on ventilation. Of the 153km stretch (Salsalabari to Ghoshpukur), there is a problem over a 9km stretch. Land has been cleared for the remaining 144km. Norms of the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) say a project can start if 75 per cent of land is available, which in this case, is available. We find no reason behind the delay by the NHAI and the Union ministry of surface transport and highways,” Deb said.

The NHAI officials in Siliguri could not be contacted for a reaction.

“The file for the project has been detained. Now that the UPA II government has only three months of its tenure left, we have serious doubts if the four-lane project would start in its last days. We have asked the state PWD to repair NH31D. It seems that the four-laning project would be implemented only after a new government is formed at the Centre,” Deb added.

The four-lane project was launched in 2002 during NDA rule in Delhi as part of the East-West corridor stretching from Gujarat to Assam. Last year, the Centre had sanctioned Rs 2,200 crore for the four-laning. But even 12 years after the project was launched, widening of the road has not started. “Initially, it was because of change in alignment later, the project came to a halt as the Trinamul Congress in the state delayed in providing us with the land,” said an NHAI official.

Deb said that last year, the Centre had sanctioned Rs 89 crore and the state PWD would use the funds to repair a 69km stretch between Fulbari and Dhupguri. The rest of the road does not need extensive repair.

Last year, the Union ministry of road transport and highways had handed NH31D back to the state PWD because of delay in land acquisition.

“We had floated tenders (for the repairs) and tomorrow they would be opened. As the project cost is above Rs 25 crore, the financial evaluation has to be done in Delhi,” Nirmal Mondal, executive engineer of PWD (NH-IX division), said over phone from Delhi.