The Tripura government will repair a road near the residence of Olympian Dipa Karmakar after her family decided to return the BMW car that she was given as a gift citing poor roads and absence of a service centre in Agartala.
“The road near Dipa’s house falls among some others that we have selected for renovation. Work is expected to begin next month,” public works department chief engineer (roads and buildings) Somesh Chandra Das told Hindustan Times.
Dipa’s family said last week that they would return the luxury car and accept its value from the organisers of the event to buy a vehicle that is locally available.
“Roads in Tripura are not good enough to drive such a vehicle. There are no capable drivers in Agartala and the company has no showroom or service centre in the state,” Dipa’s father Dulal Karmakar told Hindustan Times.
The 23-year-old was gifted the car by the Hyderabad Badminton Association as a token of appreciation after she became the first Indian to participate in the gymnastics of the showpiece event though she narrowly failed to win a medal.
BMW’s brand ambassador in India, former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, had handed over the car keys to Dipa along with two medal winners -- shuttler PV Sindhu and wrestler Sakshi Malik. Sindhu’s coach P Gopichand was also given a BMW car.
As soon as Dipa’s decision made headlines, several state government ministers and Communist Party of India-Marxist leaders blamed the Karmakars for ‘bringing disrepute to the state” by talking about the condition of roads in Tripura.
“Many costly cars ply on Tripura’s roads. I don’t know why Dipa’s family took such a decision to return the car,” said public works department minister Badal Choudhury.
The issue soon took a political turn with opposition parties -- the Bharatiya Janata Party, Trinamool Congress and the Congress -- accusing the state government of neglecting roads in Tripura and also for targeting Dipa and her family.
“Dipa should have got a call from the government to share her problems regarding the car. They should have thought of a solution to the issue much earlier,” a state BJP leader said.
State CPI(M) secretary Bijan Dhar maintained his party or the government didn’t criticise the Karmakars as it was a personal decision to return the car. “But they could have avoided mentioning the roads,” he said.
The issue has brought focus on the condition of roads in Agartala, in particular, and Tripura in general. Social media was divided on whether roads in Dipa’s home state were worse than others in the northeast.
Vehicular movement on National Highway 44, Tripura’s connection to the rest of the country, came to a near standstill in July-August this year following heavy rains in the section of the road falling in Assam.
After a severe scarcity of fuel and other essentials, the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) had to send 19 oil tankers to Tripura via Bangladesh in two separate consignments last month.