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PWD’s excuses galore for state of Panikhaiti-Chandrapur road
Rituraj Borthakur

 GUWAHATI, July 18 - Nowadays, the buzzwords on the corridors of the State Secretariat at Dispur are Digital India, Smart City, wi-fi connectivity, et al. But, just about 15 km from the seat of power, people travelling on the Narengi-Panikhaiti stretch everyday are not much amused by these highfalutin words. They are crying for a decent road for years now, and the cry has only gone shriller by the day, with little or no attention coming from the government.

What has been shocking for residents of greater Panikheti-Chandrapur-Mayong area is that despite lying so close to capital Dispur and under the Dispur constituency, the road has remained moribund for years together.

Settled in patches of land surrounded by water, hundreds of people have to reach the main road by boat only to experience a harrowing ride in ‘Magic’ four-wheelers or ‘tuk-tuks’ to the city on the backbreaking and dilapidated State Highway. Private vehicles breaking down due to the condition of the road is no news to people of this area today.

If floodwaters are the bane of citizens in the rainy season, the dry season is no boon either, as dust pollution takes over to leave them in a quandary. The State PWD has excuses galore for the lax maintenance of the road, where, according to the officials themselves, the last major carpeting repair work was done in 2012.

For the record, the road is now under the Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project (AACP) of the State PWD, which looks after the World Bank-funded projects. Before that, it was under the City 3 Division of PWD. The World Bank had approved the project connecting Narengi to Bhakatgaon in Morigaon (50.86 km) more than four years back.

PWD officials say the environmental clearance for the project took some time as it passes through the Amchang and Pobitora wildlife sanctuaries, which delayed execution of the project.

As the World Bank had already approved the project, the State government did not bother to sanction any other work on the stretch during these years, despite repeated pleas from the locals. The work order was given only in December last.

The WB project has been divided into stretches. The two-km stretch from Narengi to Bonda will be four-lane. The Rs 16.79 crore has been awarded to Jayanti Contractor Pvt Ltd. The Bonda-Gavali stretch, which is around 20 km, will be executed by Sweety Infrastructure Pvt. This stretch of the road will not be widened – the existing road will be revamped with pathways on both sides.

According to the work order, the entire project needs to be completed in 18 months. However, six months on and there has been little progress.

Now, the PWD blames it on the shortage of construction materials. To escape the wrath of the people, the contractors had reportedly filled some potholes with bricks recently, only to invite the ire of organisations like the AASU.

“Following the protests, we held a meeting with the locals. We convinced them that the bricks would be laid properly with rollers and would be removed once the actual work starts,” a PWD official said.

With the reported shortage of construction materials continuing and in view of the ongoing rainy season, it appears that the work on the road, if at all, is unlikely to gain pace before September. As such, the people of the area, in all likelihood, will have to experience another tormenting summer.

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