GANGTOK, 01 Feb:
The public of seven villages from Ranka Zero Point to Sajong today blocked the Rey-Ranka-Sajong road and did not allow vehicular movement on this road from 6.30 a.m. in the morning.
People’s Forum of Rey-Rumtek had on 30 Jan announced that it will shut down the road indefinitely from 01 Feb onwards to protest the delay in completion of road widening work which has left the road in a pathetic condition.
The road was initially under the Roads and Bridges department but was transferred to Tourism and Civil Aviation department for a tourism project under the South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development project funded by Asian Development Bank in 2013. Under the Tourism department, work to complete the road construction within 30 months had been awarded to Thukchuk Lachungpa.
The contractor did not complete the work within the prescribed time and was given a second chance to complete the 8.5 kms stretch in another 23 months which lapsed in September last year.
In the afternoon the Tourism Department gave a written assurance that the work will be completed by end of May following discussion between the people's representatives and department officials mediated by the SDM Gangtok. The protesting residents are expected to take a call after discussing the matter with other residents of the area but there is a sense that they will cooperate with the department if work on the road resumes soon.
Despite repeated representations to the Tourism and Civil Aviation department by the public, the concerned department failed to address the issue which has forced people to take such action, informed Ms Deepa Khatri, a local resident of Lingdum.
Today the public blocked the road from both the ends at Sajong and Ranka Zero Point, not allowing even ITBP vehicles on the road. ITBP, Sector Headquarter is also situated at Sama Lingdum, some 12 kms away from Gangtok.
Another resident, Sonam Tshering Bhutia said that the work was allocated way back in May 2013 but the road, which connects popular tourist destinations of Rumtek Monastery and Lingdum Monastery to Gangtok, is such that no one [even the tourists] wants to travel on it.
Local people said that the Tourism department being the concerned department did not give any response to their requests leaving them with no option but to protest.
Project Director, Nerash Pradhan, who visited the spot today requested the people to have a dialogue with the department. Alleging that the contractor was at fault he said that the road will be handed back to the Roads and Bridges department. He informed that the handing over of the road to the Roads and Bridges Department and termination of the contract with the contractor T Lachungpa is in process.
However, he did not say how much time that would take, what action would be taken against the contractor and when work on the road would resume.
Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary, Punit Kansal called a meeting with the Area MLA today and discussed the transfer of the road to the Roads and Bridges department, it is informed.
The South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development project has already released more than Rs. 5 crore to the contractor who has undertaken only 50 percent of earthwork, widening and drainage part, informed senior Consultant of the ADB project, LR Dua. On the other hand, the local people alleged that only 20-30 percent of work has been done.