AT last Public Works Department Minister Sudin Dhavalikar has realized his folly of forcing lakhs of people who travel daily between Panaji and Margao through a thoughtless diversion that would have made their journey hell for over a year. He has decided to build a diversion road between the Cortalim junction and Verna. It will be 3.5-km long and run parallel to the Konkan Railway track. Though the diversion will increase the distance between Panaji and Margao by 2.4 km, the earlier idea of diversion via the Chicalim-Dabolim route would have meant an additional 20 km. Dhavalikar has to be commended for his stroke of wisdom, even though it was belated and under tremendous public pressure, and obviously not his own. A comfortable diversion had to be in place as the ongoing construction work of the bridge over the River Zuari was expected to last at least a year. Dhavalikar has promised that diversion would not begin unless the new road is completed in about two and half months. The new road along with two bridges that need to be constructed will cost the government between Rs 12 and 15 crore, but that is worth, as public convenience is above everything.
Dhavalikar’s earlier proposal to divert traffic via the Chicalim airport route and through internal roads were considered impractical and a daily harassment to travellers. The opposition to diversion was also because the PWD had taken a decision to allow diversion without taking the local panchayats and local people into confidence. The PWD Minister also decided on diversion at the last moment. He should have planned for a diversion months ago as the department was aware of the issue. The new road was cleared after a meeting between Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and the PWD Minister. It is going to be easier for the state government to lease in the land required for the construction of the new road as it is owned by the Konkan Railway Corporation. Having the KRC as the owner is going to save a lot of time as the government would have found it very difficult to persuade individual owners. The farmers through whose lands one of the alternative diversions was proposed had rejected the idea, saying their fields had already been too fragmented owing to ‘development.’ The state government would sign an agreement with the KRC management to take possession of the land and go ahead with the construction. The process of completing the formalities should begin forthwith and the PWD authorities have to ensure that the work on road construction starts at earliest so that it is completed within the shortest possible time.
The credit for shortening the route and finding alternative to various proposals should be given to the Chief Minister, who is believed to have guided the PWD Minister in this respect. The latest decision is clear indication that the role of the Chief Minister is indispensible in appropriate decision making. The Chief Minister not only guided his cabinet colleague in finding a shorter route but also helped the people from stress and strain which they might have had to go in case the government went with its earlier diversion. Dhavalikar, who entertains the ambition of becoming Chief Minister, showed a lack of foresight and ideas in tackling the Zuari diversion issue keeping the larger public interest in mind.
While the diversion issue on the Cortalim-Verna stretch of road has been tackled, the PWD Minister should work towards easing the problems faced by the public on the other side of the bridge, especially at Agassaim, where traffic jam is witnessed almost every day. It would be better if similar arrangements are made on the Agassaim side too so as to relieve the commuters from the pains they have to undergo due to movement of traffic at snail’s speed. It would be easier for the state government to go ahead with the plan to construct the diversion road without any objections from farmers and other local people. However, the PWD Minister has to see that the 3.5-km diversion road, which is planned to be constructed to help the work on the new Zuari bridge be completed, is strong enough to withstand the movement of over a lakh of vehicles, given the nature of soil on which it has to be built. The road should not be made as a temporary road. Its quality should be of the national standards, so that it does not give way, adding to the problems of the residents and tourists travelling up and down the route.