Repair highway or give it to us: CM

Cooch Behar, Dec. 27: Mamata Banerjee today demanded that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) immediately repair NH31, the comments coming minutes after a bumpy ride on the road and a day after she avoided taking another potholed north Bengal highway.

"Look at the national highway. The condition is so bad. This road does not belong to the state government. This road is Delhi's (Centre's). I had requested the NHAI authorities (to repair it). The chief secretary and the district magistrates have written (to NHAI) but they have not repaired it," the chief minister told a gathering of 7,000 on the North Bengal Agriculture University ground at Pundibari, Cooch Behar.

"I will ask them to start repair immediately or hand it over to us. We will do it," she added.

Calling for immediate repairs at the event where she handed out doles and laid the foundation for several hostels and water schemes, Mamata said: "The north Bengal districts are in the border area. If the condition of roads is bad, how will the army and the BSF move? From a strategic point of view, I believe the highway should be repaired immediately."

A Writers' official, however, said the state public works department was responsible for the maintenance of NH31 with funds from the NHAI. "Funds for the repair of the highway has come and work will start soon," the official said.

Yesterday, Mamata had cancelled a scheduled programme in Jalpaiguri apparently to avoid taking the potholed NH31D. She took a detour to reach Cooch Behar from Bagdogra airport.

On November 26, The Telegraph had reported that a 30.8km stretch of NH31 ' which connects Dalkhola in North Dinajpur to Assam 'needed immediate repair. Mamata did not take the stretch today. Mamata travelled 12km from Khagrabari near Cooch Behar town to Pundibari.

Local Trinamul leaders could not chalk out a different route for today's programme as NH31 has to be taken to reach the venue.

The local administration had carried out patchwork 10 days ago on the stretch the chief minister's convoy took today. But heavy vehicles plying on the stretch damaged the patchwork in places.

"The administration had requested the NHAI several times to repair the road but nothing was done. So we were left with no other option but do the patchwork," an official said.

Trinamul's Cooch Behar chief and Natabari MLA Rabindranath Ghosh echoed the official and added: "The state government should be handed over the responsibility of maintaining the highway."

At today's programme, Mamata announced that the government planned to revive the Cooch Behar airport. Mamata said a "technical problem related to the runway" had led to the suspension of flights services between Calcutta and Cooch Behar. "The runway needs to be expanded for flights to land and take off smoothly. We have taken up a Rs 25-crore project," she said.

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