Pramod Giri, HT, SILIGURI: Sikkim has raised strong objection to the Centre’s decision to hand over a portion of National Highway-10 to the West Bengal PWD while the director-general of union ministry of road transport and highways has promised to look into the matter.
The NH-10, formally known as NH-31A from Sevok near Siliguri in West Bengal to Gangtok, is the life line of the Himalayan state and plays very crucial role from security point of view. Once the road is closed, the entire Sikkim would remain cut off from other parts.
Out of the 115-km long road, the 52 km long stretch – from Coronation Bridge near Sevok to Rangpo – falls in Bengal, while the remaining stretch from Rangpo to Gangtok is in Sikkim. On June 7, Bengal’s portion of the road was handed over to the state’s PWD by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which was maintaining the road for last 47 years.
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. Sikkim’s connectivity problems increased after June 7 and now the state wants the stretch to be reinstated with the BRO.
The matter was raised during a review meeting convened by the union ministry of road transport and highways on June 29 at Dispur, Guwahati. The meeting was attended by the director- general of the ministry and chief engineers of road departments of all north east states and senior BRO officials.
In the meeting, GT Dhungel the principal chief engineer of Sikkim roads & bridges department, raised his concern on the handing over of the Sevoke-Rangpo stretch of NH-10 to West Bengal Public Works department.
He expressed that with so many trouble spots in between the stretch, it would be better for all if status quo is maintained and the stretch remained with the BRO. Dhungel said, “The Sikkim and Bengal PWDs are not well equipped as the BRO to maintain the strategic NH- 10. The BRO should continue to maintain the road. The directo- general of the ministry has given a positive signal, Dhungel said.
The ministry had on April 9 2015, notified that the two portions of the NH-10 to be handed over to the respective Sikkim and West Bengal governments. But the Sikkim portion of the road is still maintained by BRO.
The Rangpo-Sevoke portion of the road gives teething problems particularly during monsoon. The April 2015 earthquake had shook the Sikkim-North Bengal region and subsequent monsoon activated new slides like Setijhora. The BRO had been working round the clock particularly during monsoon when the road becomes more vulnerable to landslides.
On Saturday, Naresh Kumar Baraily the manager of West Bengal government’s cinchona plantation posted at Mungpo and his driver Shyam Biswakarma died after a portion of rocks fell on their car at Sethijhora under Kalimpong sub division. The road was closed for hours.