A major road accident on NH-2 at Panagarh near Durgapur has killed 9 and injured 56 yesterday. Poor road condition of the national highway at Panagarh with innumerable potholes seems to be the reason for such a horrific road accident.
A speeding Durgapur-bound private bus trying to evade a huge pothole lost control, swerves off the road, smashes into a concrete road side pole and overturns to fell into a ditch at Pepsi gate just ahead of the Panagarh Railway over-bridge. The accident occurred at around 7.30 AM on Tuesday morning. The overcrowded bus carrying nearly 80 passengers was heading towards Benachity of Durgapur from Natunhat in Burdwan.
A local resident said: “A small truck had entered the wrong track from the opposite direction. The passenger laden bus almost managed to avoid the pothole and a possible head-on collision with the truck, but finally lost control hit the concrete pole on the side of the road and toppled.”
Six of the nine passengers died on the spot. Seven of the deceased have been identified while two are yet to be identified. Six bodies are in Burdwan Medical College Hospital (BMCH) and three at Durgapur sub-divisional hospital.
Most of the injured were admitted at BMCH and two— Taru Rajak of Maro village in Budbud and Sanatan Kar of Mankar near Budbud — were shifted to SSKM in Kolkata. BMCH sources said that condition of at least 12 passengers were critical. Eight injured passengers are undergoing treatment at Mankar hospital, while 13 passengers are being treated at Pursa Rural Hospital near Galsi. Two were taken to the Durgapur sub-divisional hospital.
Six of the deceased were identified as Supriyo Roy (65) of Chanok village in Mongalkote, Narayan Ghoroi (45), Rampada Mondal (46) and Mihir Baru (35) of Ausgram, Haripada Das (45) of Netaji Nagar in Durgapur, Ganesh Mondal (35) of Guskara and Bati Dhibar (36) of Andal who died on his way to PG hospital in Kolkata.
Mr. SMH Meerza, SP of Burdwan, told reporters that the driver and the conductor of the bus fled after the accident. The SP, Burdwan, said: “Potholes on NH-2 are causing severe inconvenience to fast-moving passenger vehicles; they are the root cause of today’s mishap.” Meanwhile, Budbud police, under whose jurisdiction the accident took place, has seized the bus.
The passengers of the ill-fated bus, which departed from Nutanhat in Mongalkote at 5 a.m., included mostly, vendors, office and college goers.
The National Highway Authority of India’s Project Director in Durgapur, Mr Krishna Murari, however, told: “Huge downpour in recent times had increased the number of potholes on NH-2 and the continuous repair work is in progress.” He said: “Incessant rainfall has been hampering the repair work.”
Panagarh has earned the ill-fame because of the daily congestion which virtually leads to traffic coming to standstill for hours every day. And now, the stretch in Panagarh is dotted with gaping potholes and residents said the condition had worsened in the aftermath of the monsoon. Heavy vehicles, especially overloaded trucks, are forced to slow down on the bottleneck belt, because of which deadline-driven buses try to pull past them at high speed. Many of the injured passengers said the driver, who fled after the accident, was speeding.
During construction of NH-2 about 10 years ago, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) could not widen the road into four lanes in Panagarh because local traders, who own shops on the two sides of the road, refused to give up land.
NNAI then planned to set up a 12 Km bypass road two years ago skirting the congested Panagarh town. But for the project it required 25.36 acres of mostly barren or single-crop land spreading over seven mouzas of Kanksa and Budbud blocks. But again the project had hit land acquisition problem. The land losers have refused to part with their land demanding a uniform price of Rs 1.20 crore per acre apart from jobs and contracts of supply of raw materials from NHAI. Initially, the district administration fixed up a price ranging between 1.04 crore per acre and Rs. 13 lakh per acre depending on the proximity from the road and nature of land.
MHAI authority said that the plan for the 12 Km bypass is ready but work cannot be started because land is not ready. Had the bypass been there, probably this kind of horrific road accident could have been averted. Unless the government comes up with clear cut laws on land acquisition, even acquiring land for road construction will continue to face undesirable hurdle and will eventually bottleneck the path of development.