With the World Bank-aided project to upgrade roads in a limbo for the last seven years, the poor condition of the Theogh-Hatkoti-Rohru stretch is a nightmare for every motorist. Fruit growers, who are now gearing up for the harvest season beginning next month, are especially worried, as roads form the lifeline of their business.
There has been a lot of politics over the 85km track, which became the biggest bone of contention in the Theogh, Chopal, Rohru and Jubbal-Kotkhai assembly segments. The dilapidated road cost the Bharatiya Janata Party the 2012 assembly elections. When the Congress took over the reins of the state, it promised speedy work on this road.
However, contrary to the ruling party’s claims, work has been progressing at a snail’s pace and major construction work is yet to begin.
Last year, the government re-allotted the project to the Gurgaon-based construction firm CNC, but the firm has been facing a delay in getting certain clearances. Sources said repeated interference from officials close to the state leadership was causing further delay in the upgrade of the stretch, on which more than 200 people have died in road accidents over the last few years.
“It appears that the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party only played politics, blaming each other for the poor condition of the road. In reality, no one cares. If it rains for days, the road gets full of slush, and if the weather is dry, the dust makes travelling difficult,” said Ankush Chauhan of Baghal village in Kotkhai.
Jubbal-Kotkhai Congress legislator and chief parliamentary secretary Rohit Thakur too seems to be unhappy with the progress of the widening work on the road. “Chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who holds the charge of the public works department, should intervene immediately, as the widening work is very slow and not satisfactory. Farmers and fruit growers have been worst-hit by the pathetic condition of the road,” he claimed.
The state of the road, which is at its worst during the rainy season, hampers the transportation of apples, besides leading to an increase in the freight rates, causing losses to the fruit growers.