Bengal assures Sikkim of smooth traffic – Flout groups to face action for blockades

The Telegraph

Gangtok, Feb. 26: Bengal chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti today assured the Sikkim government that no stones would be left unturned to keep NH31A open at all times under instruction from the Supreme Court.

The national highway is the only arterial route linking the Himalayan state to the rest of the country.

“We assure you that we will try our level best so that the directive issued by the Supreme Court to keep NH31A open is followed. Any group that flouts the order will face legal action and everybody has to cooperate with the order of the apex court,” Chakrabarti told The Telegraph during the tea break in the three-hour session with Sikkim chief secretary T.T. Dorji and senior officials at Chintan Bhavan today.

Replying to queries on security on NH31A to ensure smooth connectivity, Chakrabarti iterated that the directives of the apex court not to allow disruption on the highway had to be followed in principle. “If anybody violates the Supreme Court order, they will have to go to jail,” said Chakrabarti.

In recent times, frequent bandhs and agitation by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in Darjeeling district have hit traffic on NH31A. For that matter, any agitation in the Bengal district adjoining Sikkim, affects traffic on the national highway.

“The Union and the Bengal governments are rather disturbed over the fact that in the last five to six months there have been incidents of traffic disruptions on NH31A which is the lifeline of Sikkim,” Chakrabarti said.

“Sikkim gets its essential commodities by road and people travel to Siliguri to catch flights and trains. Disruptions along the highway cause immense problems for the Sikkimese,” he said. He added that all security arrangements were in place to ensure that there were no traffic disruptions. Three companies of the CPRF have been deployed from Tuesday at various points along NH31A passing through Bengal to Sikkim.

The Bengal chief secretary said a decision had been taken on February 3 in New Delhi to hold a meeting in Gangtok to discuss NH31A and three projects related to the highway. The projects include the widening of the national highway and construction of an alternative road from Rhenock in East Sikkim to Chalsa in Bengal.

“These road projects were delayed in certain areas and a lot of time was taken for forest clearances. We have discussed them and some decisions have been taken to expedite the projects,” Chakrabarti said.

Every Tuesday, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the forest and the land acquisition officials will meet in Siliguri to resolve the bottlenecks of the projects. The BRO would send its representatives to Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri district magistrates regularly to pursue the formalities for forest clearance.

“The meeting was to expedite the process by achieving proper co-ordination at all levels,” Chakrabarti’s counterpart Dorji said. He said the BRO’s top priority was to tackle the troublesome spots hit by constant rock falls and sinking zones on NH31A. Once these spots were attended to, the remaining areas would be taken care of, he added.

The Bengal delegation also comprised the inspector-general of police, north Bengal, K.L. Tamta, the Darjeeling superintendent of police, D.P. Singh, and the district magistrates of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri, Surendra Gupta and Vandana Yadav.

Representatives from the Union ministry of surface transport and forests also attended the meeting. The Sikkim side included the director-general of police, C.M. Ravindran, the inspector-general of police (law and order), S.D. Negi, principal secretary (home) Jasbir Singh and BRO Project Swastik’s chief engineer Brigadier R.K. Patyal and representatives of the army.


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