Last year, when a signboard came up at the village promising a new road to be constructed along the Balasan-Margaret Hope-Ringtong tea garden area, people living in the area were jubilant and welcomed the development wholeheartedly. However, their short-lived joy is now turning into a nightmare as the construction has been delayed for reasons unknown to the villagers. Caught between the Devil and the Deep Sea, students, taxi drivers, and residents are helpless today; clueless on how to manoeuvre through the dug-up incomplete road, made worse by the rains.
For the last couple of days, members of the Drivers’ Welfare Association plying on the Balasun-Ringtong-Margaret Hope roads took time-off and spent time clearing the road and filling potholes to make the road fit to drive. However, there is only so much they can do without the necessary equipment and expertise.
A member of the association while speaking to TheDC states “Today, many students who were going to schools in Sonada returned home because they couldn’t walk through the road. Our association members did not ply taxis yesterday because we had to fix whatever little we could on the road. The residents and especially old and sick people are trapped here and unable to go out of the village. How long can this continue?” He asks.
An audio message sent by BA-RI-MA Drivers’ Welfare Association states that the major problem lies in the 7 Km stretch between Balasun to Gorabari, which include some deep turns and a huge waterlogging problem during the monsoon. He states that there are about 23 culverts installed in the 7 km stretch, at every 10 meters but without any proper survey or planning. He alleges that the culverts are erected in places where there is no drainage requirement, but those places that need a culvert don’t have one.
The audio states “while we understand there are business interests in installing so many unplanned culverts, we request the higher authorities to look into the matter urgently roads are one of the most important aspects of our region’s development. With such road conditions, our lives are threatened, students are unable to attend classes, and the general public is gravely inconvenienced.”
While corresponding with TheDC, a member of the association says “For the administration, the delay may be paperwork issues, but for us, it is a question about the education of our children, our daily income and employment, access to healthcare, and everything.” He says some engineers from Kolkata had visited the site a few days back. The Bha-Ri-Ma driver association and villagers had met with the engineers and requested to expedite the construction. “We even hosted them warmly with Khada and they assured that the construction will be taken on priority. We are worried that any further delay in the construction will stall the work for the whole year as Monsoon will soon hit the Hills.”
Requesting the authorities to urgently intervene in the matter, the Ba-Ri-Ma Drivers’ Association raises deep concern for the students who are missing their classes, for the old and sickly who are unable to travel for medical care, and even the livelihood of people who depend on daily wages.
There is always so much talk about development in the media, but without properly planned roads, we are simply putting people’s lives at risk.