Army praise over bridge construction in Darjeeling

Darjeeling: The army’s commendable job in putting together a 140-feet bridge over Lebong Cart Road which was devasted by a landslide causing a cave-in. The road connected Lebong and several Darjeeling Tea gardens. Within 24 hours of a landslide, the army has raised the pitch for handing over NH55 to the Border Roads Organisation.

The 113 engineering regiment had started constructing the bridge yesterday morning and by this afternoon district magistrate Saumitra Mohan was able to drive his car across it along with Brigader Ravi Raut, the commanding officer.

The public works department had said earlier that it would take around two to three months to permanently restore Lebong Cart Road that was damaged in a landslide on Monday. Till the PWD completes its job, the bridge will connect Darjeeling to Singamari, Tukvar, Singla, Lebong and Jorethang in Sikkim.

The swiftness with which the army completed the job prompted even the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to demand that NH55 should be handed over to the BRO just like NH31A, which connects Siliguri with Gangtok.

NH55 links Darjeeling to Siliguri.

The BRO looks after the Siliguri-Gangtok stretch and despite numerous landslides along the route, the army always managed to clear debris in a short span of time, the Morcha said.

Trilok Dewan, the Morcha’s MLA from Darjeeling, said: “NH55 is in a mess and it is clear that the National Highways Authority is finding it difficult to maintain the road which is very important for Darjeeling. This road must be handed over to the BRO which is much more efficient.”

National Highway 55 or Hill Cart Road has been closed for most of the time since June 2010 and with a fresh landslide on Thursday near Tindharia, after which a stretch of the road caved in, there is little chance of the road opening this year.

“Alternative routes like Pankhabari, Rohini, Mungpoo or Mirik had not been constructed to handle heavy vehicles and since the national highway is closed, these roads are in a terrible condition because heavy vehicles are forced to ply on these routes,” said Dewan.

The Morcha leader added that he had raised the issue of handing over NH55 to the BRO with Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan during his recent visit to the hill town.

“I have requested him to look into the matter,” said Dewan, who is also a member of the board of administrators of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

He added that DGHC had also sent a Rs 194 crore proposal to the state to construct an alternative highway to NH55 through Bungkulung in Mirik.

“I had also suggested that the construction and repair of the alternative road should be taken up by the BRO. I hope Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh takes up the matter with the appropriate authorities in Delhi,” said Dewan.

The MLA said he would ask the NH-IX division to attend the DGHC board meeting on October 15.

“We want to know in detail about the state of the highway and how long it would take to restore the patch if they start work immediately,” said Dewan.

Source: The Telegraph