HT, 8 Jun 2016, SILIGURI: The custodian of the strategic and landslide-prone National Highway 10 in West Bengal connecting Sikkim with other parts of the country has been changed after 47 years.
On Tuesday, the West Bengal PWD formally took over the 52-km stretch of NH10 (formally known as NH 31A) from Coronation Bridge to Rangpo along West Bengal- Sikkim border from Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
The road is the lifeline of Sikkim and is very important from the military and tourism points of view. The NH-10 was given to BRO from CPWD in January 1969 after extensive damages occurred to the road formations due to 1968 floods and landslides.
A press release issued by BRO said since then NH-10 has been successfully maintained by BRO 87 RCC (Project Swastik/764 BRTF) which is the first responder to any call.
Ajay Singh, executive engineer of Bengal State PWD Division 9, said, “We formally took over the road on Tuesday at a small ceremony at Malli near the Bengal-Sikkim border.”
The 52-km stretch of the road has been handed over to the state government as per the Centre’s decision taken on April 9 in 2015.
The decision to transfer the stretch has raised a question whether the state PWD would be able to maintain the hilly terrain road that passes through landslide-prone region.
The timing of the takeover also seems to be odd. The monsoon is hardly days away and the transferred stretch of the road is regularly hit by the landslides and often remains closed.
The failure of the PWD to restore National Highway 55 at Tindharia, 27 km from here and hit by landslide in 2011, is a pointer why many are raising the doubts about how effectively the PWD would maintain NH10.
The Sikkim gover nment did not want its lifeline NH 10 to be maintained by any state agency and has been regularly placing before the Union government that its highways should be maintained by a central agency.
The NH 10 is divided into two parts, from Sevok to Rangpo which is the border of West Bengal and Sikkim, and from Rangpo to Gangtok.