| A truck stuck near Kuira village on the Hatgamharia-Jaitgarh road since Thursday night. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Hatgamharia (West Singhbhum), Sept. 1: The number of iron ore-laden trucks plying on the Hatgamharia-Kiriburu and Hatgamharia-Jaitgarh road have come down from an average of 250 a day to just 25 per day since June.
But today villagers around Hatgamharia stopped the movement of trucks completely to protest against the poor condition of the road.
Angry villagers complained that with bus services having ceased long ago, they had little option but to walk. Ministers, they said, have been giving assurances for the past four years but nothing was done. So, tired of promises, they have now taken recourse to direct action to teach ministers a lesson.
Every truck, the villagers claimed, cough up as much as Rs 10,000 as illegal gratification to officials so that they turn a blind eye to “over-loading’”. While none of the trucks is supposed to carry more than 15 tonnes of iron ore, they actually carry as much as 40 tonnes, they said.
This was confirmed by a few truckers as well, who argued that unless this is done, their owners cannot earn enough to pay for the expenses.
The trucks, they said, often break down on this road; and once that happens, they usually get stranded for three to five days. Often heavy-duty vehicles and bulldozers are requisitioned to push the trucks out of the craters into which they might have fallen. If they are already laden with iron-ore, the cost of rescuing the truck is even higher and takes longer, they pointed out. So, who will compensate for the losses if they don’t carry almost three times the permissible weight, they asked.
Even villagers stand to lose, however, with the stoppage of trucks. At every place, where the road has crumbled, groups of villagers formed cartels to extort anywhere between Rs 10 to Rs 100 from each truck and in return filled up the road with stonechips, boulders and mud and levelled the stretch for the trucks to pass.
Villagers, in batches of two or three, have been keeping a vigil at the Hatgamharia entry-point so that not a single trucks sneaks through the cordon. An elderly resident, B.S. Chatomba (65), said villagers are sick of promises.
Both Madhu Koda and Sudesh Mahto have been promising that the road would be repaired at the earliest. But the “earliest” is yet to arrive, he sarcastically added.