The death of eight persons in the accident on the Hubballi-Dharwad Bypass (NH4) has once again brought to light the delay in the widening of the around 30-km two-lane stretch which has almost become a “death trap”.
It was in January that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) floated the tender to convert the 31-km long two-lane bypass between Hubballi and Dhawad into a six-lane expressway and for two-lane service road on each side.
Subsequently, on February 28, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone for the work and heaped praises on Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi for finding a solution for the complicated road-widening project.
However, even as elected representatives keep visiting hospitals to console the grieving family members of the accident victims, the reality is that the bids are yet to be opened. On Tuesday evening, district in-charge Minister for Dharwad Halappa Achar, after a meeting with NHAI officials, told mediapersons that the bids would be opened on June 3.
As per the tender conditions, a time of two-and-a-half years has been fixed for completion of the project after the work orders are issued, which is yet to happen. However, if Mr. Achar is to be believed, the term is two years and efforts would be made to complete the work even before that. Considering the laidback attitude, it seems an improbability as of now.
Around 390 deaths
Nandi Highway Developers Ltd. laid the 29.04-km bypass between Gabbur Cross in Hubballi and Narendra Cross in Dharwad in 1998 and maintains it. As per a rough estimate, 390 people have lost their life and 300 have become disabled in around 1,200 accidents on the stretch in the last 12 years.
The bypass is a bottleneck as two six-lane roads on either ends (Dharwad and Hubballi) are squeezed into a two-lane bypass. While roads on either side got widened but the bypass has remained as it is since 1998, making it dangerous for travellers. Demand for road widening through agitations went unheeded for years.
It was only after the intervention of the Supreme Court, after the tragic accident which took the lives of 11 women from Davangere last year, that finally the elected representatives and officials woke up. But it still took close to a year to start the tendering process.
Advocate and KPCC media analyst P.H. Neeralakeri, who had launched an agitation for road widening, blames the government entirely for the deaths. His allegation is that it is not technical issues but the discussion “to fix the percentage of commission” which is delaying initiating the work.
As of now, it seems unlikely that the work will start next month. Even after the bids are opened and finalised, it may take another month before the work orders are issued, admit officials. And the acquisition of 31 acres of land for the project is likely to take three months to complete if there is no technical glitch.
The project cost
The total cost of the proposed project is ₹1,200 crore. The Union Government has sanctioned ₹800 crore for the six-lane expressway and the four-lane service road and another ₹400 crore for land acquisition, DPR preparation, and allied works.