| The stretch of NH-32 at Godhar in Dhanbad on Friday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Traders and shopkeepers of the region are up in arms against construction of a diversion on NH-32 for fear of losing customers once the new road between Topchanchi and Mahuda comes up.
A delegation of various traders associations, including Purana Bazar Chamber of Commerce, Bank More Chamber of Commerce, Dhanbad Motor Dealers Association, Distributors and Dealers Association, Pustak Vyavasai Sangh, Puti Chamber of Association is planning to meet Dhanbad MP P.N. Singh.
Traders were also keen on meeting BCCL CMD Tapas Kumar Lahiry to request him to initiate measures to control the underground fire that has been raging beneath the highway instead of constructing the 21km diversion.
RITES, a government of India enterprise offering holistic infrastructure consultancy and solutions, prepared a detailed project report of the diversion from Mahuda, 19 km west of Dhanbad, to Topchanchi, 48 km north of Dhanbad, after Jharia Rehabilitation Development Authority (JRDA) decided on it for the benefit of those living near fire affected zones of NH-32 in Godhar, Kendua and Putki.
Construction began at Topchanchi about a month ago for the road that will pass through Dumra More, Harina and Gomoh,
After BCCL provided it with Rs 20 crore for the diversion in March, JRDA approached the state road construction department. A contract was finally awarded to East India Construction Company of Calcutta.
We will adopt democratic ways of protest to put pressure on the authorities as the diversion will snatch the livelihood of more than one lakh people, particularly those with shops along NH-32, said Bank More Chamber of Commerce secretary Surendra Arora.
Why cant trench-cutting be initiated in the fire affected areas to save the sites instead of wasting precious money on constructing a diversion, he said adding thy would request the local MP to raise the issue in Parliament if BCCL did not pay heed to their demands.
Echoing similar sentiments, Suresh Agarwal, president of Dhanbad Motor Dealers Association, said the diversion would sound the death knell for shopkeepers of various markets at Mahuda, Kapuria, Putki, Moonidih, Karkend, Kendua Bazar, Kendua Pul, Matkuria, Bank More, Purana Bazar and Naya Bazar.
BCCL has a history of ruining areas where it launches open cast mines and if it does the same near the NH-32, it will no longer be safe for common people, Arora said.
Executive engineer of the road construction department M.N. Jha, however, tried his best to allay fears of local residents, especially traders. Consider the new 21km road Mahuda to Topchanchi as a bypass instead of a diversion. The existing road will continue to function and people coming from Ranchi and Bokaro, on way to Calcutta and Delhi, will not have to go through Dhanbad town to touch NH-2. They can now use the bypass, he said.
He added that BCCL would build smaller diversions near fire zones to extract coal instead of closing the road altogether.