Siliguri, Dec. 20: Congress leaders of Jalpaiguri and Siliguri today met National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials and requested them to repair the NH31D in a month in what seems to be the party's knee-jerk reaction to an adverse campaign by Trinamul and the Left.
"The Trinamul and Left parties are duping people in rural areas. They are saying that despite the Congress being at the Centre and the ministry being with the party, we are not doing anything to mount pressure on the NHAI, which is responsible for maintaining the highway," said Saikat Chatterjee, the Jalpaiguri district Youth Congress president.
"We met NHAI officials today and requested them to repair the road quickly."
Congress leaders said it was evident that time would be required before the over 1,500 acres ' required for four-laning the highway ' is acquired by the state and handed to the NHAI.
"It is a shame that in the entire East-West corridor from Gujarat to Assam, this is the only portion where work is yet to start. The Trinamul government has in an unabashed manner shelved the plan to acquire land and expedite road construction. It is its political ploy of not letting the project to go ahead on the one hand and to criticise the Congress on the other. So, we simply want the NHAI to carry out a thorough repair of the two-lane highway," Debasish Pramanik, the president of the Dabgram-Fulbari block Congress Committee, said.
The Congress leaders, after talking to NHAI officials, said that from tomorrow, they would launch signature campaign in six places along the highway.
"From tomorrow, six camps would be set up to collect people's signatures demanding repair and four-laning of NH31D. We would then visit C.P. Joshi, the Union minister of surface transport and roadways, in Delhi, seeking his intervention," Chatterjee said.
"The NHAI officials have told us that there will be an improvement in road conditions by January 15. In case, the situation remains the same, we will lock the NHAI office here."
The Congress leaders have also threatened to demonstrate outside the office of North Bengal development minister Gautam Deb.
"We have learnt that he has been consistently criticising the Congress and its representatives, including the Union ministers of state. If the state keeps on dithering on land acquisition, we would be forced to launch an indefinite demonstration in his office as he cannot evade his responsibility of resolving problems which are hindering the development of north Bengal."
An NHAI official said: "We have informed our headquarters on the problems regarding NH31D. We have been asked to carry out minimum maintenance. However, as four-lane work is getting delayed, the maintenance work is not up to the mark and the road is getting damaged," a senior official said on conditions of anonymity.
"Finding that the road, particularly the Siliguri Jalpaiguri stretch, needs thorough repairs, we have sought an allocation of Rs 7.44 crore."