New Delhi: A strong demand was made in Lok Sabha on Monday to speed up construction of border roads in north Bengal and the north-eastern states, including an alternative highway from Siliguri to Darjeeling.

BJP member from Darjeeling, Raju Bista, also urged the Centre to speed up construction of a new bridge to replace the 100-year-old Coronation Bridge which is an important link between north Bengal and the north-east.

“The 100-year-old Coronation Bridge is in a very poor condition and needs urgent replacement,” Bista said, participating in the debate in Lok Sabha on the Demand for Grants of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

The Coronation Bridge is located in the narrow 22-km corridor known as the Chicken’s Neck which has Bangladesh on one side and Nepal on the other, making it strategically very important.

“The Chicken’s Neck area has become a bottleneck,” he said, highlighting the traffic congestion in and around the Siliguri region.

“There is a need to speed up road construction in the border region,” Bista said noting that the north Bengal and Sikkim region was crucial as it shared borders with China, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Bista also urged the ministry to set up at least three ropeways in Darjeeling to link remote areas.

AIMIM member Imtiaz Jaleel said the Aurangabad-Ajantha Caves road in Maharashtra has been delayed for over five years despite an assurance by Gadkari in 2019 to build it within a few weeks.

Jaleel, who represents Aurangabad in Lok Sabha, blamed contractors for the poor condition of roads built under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana in villages.

He claimed that a nexus between contractors and officers was responsible for the poor quality of village roads.

He also demanded that the Centre construct a superhighway linking Aurangabad and Pune that would make it easier for the devout to visit Shirdi, known for the Sai Baba temple.

Santokh Singh Chaudhary of Congress claimed that the highways passing through his constituency Jalandhar were poorly designed and causing immense trouble to the local people.

He said the flyover that passes through Phillaur did not have proper entry and exit points for the city, while another six-lane road abruptly gets converted into a four-lane road, which leads to accidents.

Chaudhary said the storm water drains alongside highways were also poorly built with no proper facilities for drainage of water, which leads to damaged roads.

He urged the Centre to have the roads re-designed.

Udai Pratap Singh, a BJP member from Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh demanded toll-free access for people living within 10-km radius of any toll-booth.

BJP member Ram Kripal Yadav said the PM Gati Shakti programme will play a critical role in raising India’s GDP to USD 5 trillion, besides generating jobs.

Hanuman Beniwal (RLP) demanded that all villages should be connected by roads.

He also demanded that all road tolls should be abolished and the country should be made ‘toll-free’.

Navneet Rana (Ind) suggested that the centre should focus on development of roads in tribal areas, especially in Maharashtra.

Srinivas Kesineni (TDP) demanded that budgetary allocation should be increased for road safety and maintenance so that accidents could be reduced.

N K Premachandran (RSP) objected to the absence of Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari during the discussion on demands for grants for his ministry.

Observing that Gadkari was doing a good job, Premachandran said parliamentary ethics demanded that the minister, who was seeking approval of Lok Sabha for spending Rs 1.9 lakh crore during 2022-23, should be present in the House.

Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways V K Singh was present in the House.

CPI member M Selvaraj (Nagapattinam), BSP member Ram Shiromani Verma (Shrawasti), BJP member Dhal Singh Bisen (Balaghat), JD(U) member Alok Kumar Suman (Gopalganj), IUML member K Navas Kani (Ramanathapuram) also participated in the debate.

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