TO SAY that the much awaited inauguration of the Panagarh Bypass on Saturday was marred by controversy would be an understatement. It began with newspaper advertisements on the event carrying photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while it was scheduled to be inaugurated by Union Minister and Asansol MP Babul Supriyo. It eventually ended with Trinamool Congress ministers “hijacking” the programme to “teach the minister a lesson”.
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While Supriyo, the Union MoS for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, was scheduled to throw open the bypass in the evening, state ministers Moloy Ghatak and Swapan Debnath, claiming that the inauguration had been on hold for four months due to Supriyo’s “intentional delay”, inaugurated the same in a hurry in the afternoon.
Following the incident, Supriyo in a series of tweets alleged, “This official inauguration has been hijacked by TMC… Malay Ghatak has used bulldozers 2 remove the NHA cement boulders…I am happy the Bypass got inaugurated 2 hours early “FOR” the Public…They can’t provoke me 2 do anything undignified… BUT I will maintain my dignity, that of a Representative of the Centre & quietly do the job I am assigned 2 do AT 4pm.”
The Trinamool Congress, meanwhile, alleged that in spite of being completed four months ago, the arterial route — constructed using panelled concrete technology — wasn’t being opened because Supriyo was refusing to come for the inauguration ceremony, citing lack of time. “The work was completed four months ago. But the Centre doesn’t care about the troubles of the common people. They want their photo ops and to claim that they are doing a lot of work,” said a party spokesperson.
NHAI officials said that the 6-km-long bypass — key in solving traffic issues between Panagarh and Durgapur — was scheduled to be inaugurated in August. The key problem was the Panagarh market — an important market for scrap military vehicles ranging from Royal Enfield bullets to Shaktiman trucks — which would attract buyers from across the country and lead to congestion.
Trinamool maintained that after coming to power in 2011, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had decided that no vehicles would be parked at the market area. But without a bypass, traffic movement still remained painfully slow. Moreover, Durgapur is a part of the Golden Quadrilateral — a highway network connecting major industrial, agricultural and cultural centres — and the route from Kolkata-Durgapur is the key to the state’s industrial growth, said officials.