How long will the commuter suffer'
As the question rang out in the courtroom of Calcutta High Court Chief Justice A. K. Mathur, it struck a chord with countless Calcuttans, slowed down by the seemingly endless construction work from Gariahat to Park Circus.
The work on the levelling — or dereservation of tram tracks — on Ashutosh Chowdhury Avenue (better known as Gariahat Road) and Syed Amir Ali Avenue, right up to Park Circus, has turned this into a horror stretch for months on end.
And it is pace of progress — or the lack of it — that prompted Chief Justice Mathur on Friday to give the agencies concerned a dressing down in court.
“The roads have been dug up for months and there is no sign of completion. Nobody knows when the work will be completed... The agency is incompetent and the contractor inefficient and has no idea of how to handle work of this nature… How long will the commuter suffer'” he demanded.
One commuter he was referring to was himself. “I am also a victim of this chaos (the chief justice lives on Gariahat Road) and I face problems daily when I come to court in the morning and return home in the evening. The government, as well as the implementing agency, are causing major problems for commuters,” the chief justice observed.
With huge metal boards placed on either side of the construction site, road space has been reduced significantly and traffic movement impeded. Later in the evening, the stretch becomes a potential death trap for motorists and pedestrians.
The Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners has contracted Tantia Construction Ltd to carry out the work on what forms a part of the flyover project being funded by the Japan Bank for International Co-operation.
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty’s response to the chief justice’s observations offers little solace to the commuter ‘victim’.
“People have to bear with this inconvenience for a greater cause,” he told Metro on Friday.
“I admit that commuters are suffering, especially during the peak hours. But the work that is being done is for the convenience of the people. Once completed, and once the road is levelled out, it will ease congestion and benefit the people,” stressed Chakraborty.
And the transport department insists that the project is on schedule.
“We had set May 29 as the date for completion and we feel that work is proceeding accordingly,” said H. Mohan, joint secretary in the transport department.
“How can we say that the work has been delayed unless we have missed the deadline' The track record of the contractor is also fine, in terms of meeting deadlines. So, let us wait for another month before we arrive at any conclusion,” he added.
But not many are convinced. Chairman of the Assembly sub-committee on transport Sadhan Pande, has convened a meeting next week to verify the government’s fast-track claims.