The Theog-Hatkoti road is the lifeline of horticulturists based in the region connected through this route. It was declared as the National Highway in 2015 and is proposed to be converted into four-lane road. The route is used by apple growers to transport their produce to markets every year. However, the road has been in a very poor condition since last decade. The condition is worsened by monsoon rains which happens to collide with apple season. Apple growers face huge inconvenience, monetary loss, and wastage of time due to bad road condition. Early arrival of monsoon has already converted the road into pool of mud. HRTC buses, trucks, and cars get stuck on this road, leading to hour-long traffic jams.
Although, Himachal Pradesh Government had tried to repair and maintain the road earlier, it hardly received any success so far. The hit apple grower community had staged protest last year in this regard. In response, the government had assured speeding up the completion work, but it just remained an assurance this year as well. So, misery of apple growers still continues in 2016 as well.
Construction work of the World Bank funded 81 kilometer-long road from Theog to Rohru was allotted to a private firm in 2013. However, after three years, merely 35 percent of road is completed.
Last year, while addressing three-day-long state-level Rohru festival, the state Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had promised local agriculturists 60 percent completion of construction by June, 2016, but only half of it could be achieved.
The honorable HP High Court had also intervened and had directed the government to speed up the work. But the company failed to meet the deadline again. Out of Rs. 333 crore, the company could spend only Rs. 130 crore on just 35 percent road length. Afraid to lose the remaining funds, the state government re-requested the World Bank to extend the deadline. World Bank has accepted the request and has extended the deadline until December 2016, which implies that apple growers and fellow horticulturists reliant on this road for transportation of their cash crops will have to face same trouble this year as well. The poor road condition has made the 80 kilometer-long stretch accident-prone area. Vehicles including public transport (buses) often get seen stuck in muddy patches, elevating problem of locals to a new level.
Opposition (BJP) has again launched attack on the state government for lethargic attitude and failure to complete the construction despite availability of ample funds and time. However, it is also true that opposition did not show any interest in betterment of the road during their tenure. Moreover, opposition mostly preferred boycotts or walkouts from HP Assembly sessions instead of debating, questioning, and giving voice to unrest among locals hit by debilitating road conditions.
However, considering the growing anger among agriculturists, HPPWD had identified some specific locations where tarring was scheduled during May–June 2016. The department has also set a goal to complete 16 kilometer-long patch from Nihari to Khadan on priority bases.
Much has already been said. It’s time for the state government to take some action, positive action with immediate constructive measures, in order to eliminate misery of the locals, who have been forced to embrace such sickening conditions, and reinstate normal lifestyle.