On the topic of roads once again - it seems to be a pet peeve now.
These days, the PH -- Pot Hole -- factor plays a big role in determining whether we go out at all. The roads in our area have not been repaired for months. In some places, they haven't been maintained for years. Why remains a mystery. Another monsoon has us in its grip, and the rain-fed rivers are washing away what remains of them.
Where are We Going?
These roads are National Highway 31 and National Highway 31 C, which pass through Siliguri, and then go east through the Dooars, including Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts, to connect the North Eastern states to the rest of the country. I’m talking here about stretches of road that measure over 100 kms. These pictures were taken on NH 31C, between Banarhat and Mal Bazar (a distance of around 45 kms). I have yet to recover from this ride to go on to NH 31, where greater horrors await. One road bridge there seems to be hanging in there by sheer cussedness. This one over the River Diana doesnt look too sturdy, either.
The drive to Mal Bazar used to take us around thirty-five minutes each way in the good old days (two years ago). It took us an hour and ten minutes yesterday. When we returned home, shaken (and stirred), we were happy that we hadn’t been hurt, or even lost our tempers. It isn't a very smooth ride, you see. It is difficult to remain calm when you're being bounced and tilted dangerously into craters, and when every bone in your body is rattled about.
The picture below shows a stretch of a road near Nagrakata leading to a culvert that was washed away by a stream more than six years ago. The crumbling 'wall' of boulders is supposed to serve as a barricade. There is no warning sign, either about the missing culvert, or about the diversion. Our friends' son crashed into the boulders one foggy January night and was lucky to be alive - after six months in hospital.
We don’t need any politicians calling for blockades on our roads - our roads themselves don’t allow people to move around in anything like comfort. What is the solution? The sustained neglect of these highways by the authorities is alarming. The public isn't making any effective protest. We all complain, all the time, but nothing has come of it. Traders, schoolchildren, shopkeepers, tea garden workers - every resident of the region is affected.
It was amusing to see that our daily newspapers, published from Kolkata, brought out coloured supplements last week on North Bengal to attract tourists during the Puja season. Tourists? I wouldn’t put my enemies through travel on these highways!
The Bridge over Jaldhaka River
The cows aren't affected - perhaps, like them,we'll become completely placid, too, and travel only on foot.