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Trinamul lays road to counter highway jab

Siliguri, March 17: The Trinamul Congress is highlighting the construction of a road between Siliguri and Jalpaiguri in the election campaign to counter the rivals’ charge that the state government had been unable to widen NH31D to four lanes from two.

The 45km new road is an alternative to NH31D that has been in a pitiable state for the past few years between Siliguri and Salsalabari on the Assam-Bengal border.

The work on improving the alternative two-lane road began six months back and is being carried out by the north Bengal development department and the Jalpaiguri zilla parishad. The road passes through the Jalpaiguri Lok Sabha constituency where Trinamul has fielded Bijoy Chandra Barman.

The Mamata Banerjee government has come under fire for its reluctance to acquire land to convert NH31D into a four-lane road.

Minister Gautam Deb, who is in charge of the north Bengal development department, said most of the land required for the widening of NH31D had been taken over by the state government.

“Yet, the National Highways Authority of India has not started the widening. So, the state government felt the need to develop an alternative road which can help thousands of commuters who travel between Siliguri and Jalpaiguri daily,” he said.

“The road will provide relief to two-wheelers and four-wheelers. Besides, there is information that construction of the four-lane highway will begin soon as the tender process has been initiated. During the construction, there is likely to be traffic congestion and the alternative road will be required then,” Deb added.

The alternative road starts from Gosala More in Jalpaiguri and joins the Eastern Bypass near Siliguri.

The road had existed before, but was narrow and in a bad state.

Observers said Trinamul’s focus on the alternative road stemmed from its realisation that the state would be held responsible by the CPM and the Congress for the delay in the widening of NH31D.

“Trinamul was apprehensive of criticism on the land issue and decided to develop an alternative road that will help commuters between Siliguri and Jalpaiguri. During the campaign, other parties, particularly the Congress, will surely raise the issue. To counter it, Trinamul will have to speak about the new road to convince voters,” said an observer.

The Congress said the new road wouldn’t ease the traffic problems between Siliguri and Salsalabari. “Building an alternative road is good, at least for the people travelling between Siliguri and Jalpaiguri. But it can never solve the woes of those who travel on NH31D daily,” said Shankar Malakar, the Darjeeling district Congress president.