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Bad road cuts off villages

Burdwan, March 7: Around 25 villages in Burdwan’s Khandaghosh have become virtually inaccessible because a 24km road is in a deplorable condition.

With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the model code of conduct has come into effect and the road can be repaired only after the poll process gets over after May 16.

Villagers pointed to a crime the administration has allegedly failed to stop for the craters on the road — sand pilfering. Twelve-wheeled trucks carrying sand pilfered from the Damodar riverbed have damaged the road over the years.

Asgar Ali, 45, a resident of Tildanga village, alleged that his father died because no ambulance agreed to come to the area to take him to Burdwan Medical College Hospital after he suffered a heart attack 15 days ago. “He died at home. Had the road not been in such a horrible condition, he could have been alive,” Ali said.

Sunil Saha, 50, a resident of Kamalpur who works in the Burdwan head post office, said: “No one wants to visit our village. At least two marriage proposals did not materialise because the families of the prospective groom and bride found it difficult to reach the area. Several villagers have left the place and have taken up rented accommodation elsewhere.”

He shifted to a rented house at Polempur, 15km from Kamalpur, six months ago, leaving his home at Kamalpur.

“I had no other option. The motorcycle ride to Burdwan town, 22km from Kamalpur, had become a nightmare for me. I met with several accidents because of the innumerable potholes,” Sunil Saha said.

The road falls under the Khandaghosh Assembly segment, which is part of the Bishnupur Lok Sabha constituency.

After the road was built nine years ago under the Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana, it has never been repaired. Potholes started appearing around four years ago and the condition kept worsening.

Bikash Pramanik, a 26-year-old cellphone dealer who lives in Gaitanpur village, said his marriage had to be called off because the prospective bride’s family “backtracked at the last moment” because of the road.

“My marriage had almost been finalised with a girl in Burdwan town last month. But her family cancelled it because they faced a lot of difficulty reaching our village for talks,” Bikash said.

Asked about sand pilfering, villagers said at least 3,000 heavy trucks carrying smuggled sand plied on the road every day. The villagers said on condition of anonymity that the illegal trade had increased in the past three years.

District land and land reforms officer Ashok Saha admitted that sand pilfering was a problem. “We regularly check trucks carrying sand for overloading. But there is a problem of pilfering. We are taking police’s help to curb the menace,” he said.

The sabhadhipati of the zilla parishad, Debu Tudu, said he was aware of the condition of the road. “We have floated tenders for the repair of the road. Hopefully, we will be able to take up the work before the monsoon,” he said. The zilla parishad is run by Trinamul.

The CPM Lok Sabha poll candidate for the Bishnupur seat, Susmita Bauri, said: “The chief minister had said (before the panchayat polls last year) that rural work would be monitored by block or district-level officials. The previous Left-run zilla parishad could not repair the road because of lack of co-operation.”