Giant craters (top and above) on NH-33 near Ghatshila are traffic tormentors. Pictures by Animesh Sengupta
Bistupur resident Ashok Sarkar and his family had to spend the night of August 25 at a highway hotel after their car broke down on way to Calcutta
On August 28, insurance agent Ajay Shankar was forced to take a 10km detour to reach Ghatshila from Dimna Chowk
The Sarkars and Shankar weren’t plain unlucky, but victims of gross urban neglect, delay disease and bitter blame game.
A 45km stretch of NH-33, the lifeline connecting Jamshedpur with Ranchi, offers a bone-rattling ride to commuters even as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has embarked on an ambitious project to widen the artery into four lanes.
Students of at least three engineering colleges, who use this crater-riddled road between Jamshedpur and Ghatshila, perennially risk their life and limb as monsoon and zero maintenance make mishaps routine.
“We had a harrowing experience last week. Our car had a breakdown while trying to negotiate a crater near Galudih. We had to rent a room at a resort and resumed journey to Calcutta the day after,” 49-year-old Sarkar said, adding that he had little idea that an NH-33 ride could be such a nightmare.
Sitaramdera resident Shankar took a detour along Potka-Musabani road to reach Ghatshila because he was apprehensive of a head-on crash on the warty highway. “We were three friends riding a small car. After crossing Baliguma, I did not dare drive ahead. It would have been suicidal. Heavy vehicles were on a roller-coaster ride. Imagine what if one toppled on our car,” the 56-year-old said.
NHAI’s technical manager in Jharkhand Manoj Kumar Pandey refused to comment on the condition of the highway stretch. “My concern is only the four-lane project. As far as maintenance of existing stretches of NH-33 matters, it is the state government’s onus,” he said.
Chief engineer (NH division) Murari Bhagat said he was aware of the bumpy ride. “We will carry out maintenance after monsoon. The estimate for the jobs is being worked out,” he claimed.
Seasonally speaking, monsoon is here to stay another month. Until then, death and danger lurks every second as engineering students bike or ride pick-up vans to reach their campuses off the highway. Since January, two have met with fatal bike accidents on NH-33 between Galudih and Jamshedpur.
“Sooner or later, repairs will probably be done, but what about life and limb lost until then?” asked Avinash Kishore, a local resident.
Does the NHAI or the government have an answer?