A key project for Bengal has been included in this year’s budget proposals presented on February 2 by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament.
The plan is to upgrade the current road link between the state capital Kolkata and Siliguri, the second most important city of West Bengal. The project is important for the development of the state.
The current arterial connection between the two largest urban agglomerates in Bengal is in disarray and has been so for the past six decades. It takes almost 11 hours to 12 hours to reach one place from the other.
Though the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had started four-lane highways between the two cities — National Highways 12 and 27 but the unavailability of land at many places has hamstrung the project.
According to NHAI officials, “the Kolkata-Siliguri road link is one of the worst in the country and hurdles in acquiring land have hampered upgradation of this link.”
Even for vital infrastructure ventures, the Bengal government has a short-sighted strategy of keeping its hands off land acquisition. The state government’s resistance to land acquisition has culminated in long stretches of highways remaining in a sad condition. The four-laned stretches of the two highways frequently narrow down into potholed two-lane stretches that make the journey long and tiresome between the two cities.
In several sections, this state highway is nothing more than a village thoroughfare with mud tracks and it is obstructed by bullock carts, tractors and bicycles. Apart from the entire Dooars region of North Bengal, Siliguri is a major commercial centre that caters to Sikkim, Darjeeling Hills and even Bhutan.
The Siliguri – Kolkata connection is important for not only the development of the state but it will also help to increase the trade relation with neighbouring countries Nepal and Bhutan.
With the promise of more funds being available, the NHAI now will be able to offer attractive rates to purchase land for four-lane roads for the entire stretch of the Kolkata-Siliguri link.