Traffic along Panaji-Margao-Vasco national highway (NH-17) came to a grinding halt after the villagers of Verna, Majorda, Pirni, Morod, Senaulim and surrounding areas blocked the Pirni-Verna bypass for nearly over two and half hours on Thursday morning, demanding immediate erection of speed breakers and traffic signals at the dangerous junctions in order to avoid accidents on the stretch “since it has become a death trap for the motorists.”
The death of two innocent persons including a pillion rider Aishwarya Salelkar (17), a resident of Colva and a scooterist Salman Ahmed (34), a resident of Majorda has aggrieved the villagers of areas in close vicinity of the Pirni-Verna highway.
Villagers started gathering at the Pirni-Verna bypass at 7 am and blocked the highway at 7.30 am causing immense hardships to the commuters. Employees of the state and central government besides the workers at various establishments including companies at Verna IDC and other industrial estates across the state in North and South Goa districts were left stranded.
Air passengers were also affected due to the blockade. The taxi operators however managed to commute from the internal roads, connected to the Pirni-Verna bypass.
The aggrieved villagers who were protesting with placards refused to disperse from the bypass despite assurance made by the police officials. Verna PI Uday Parab, Vasco PI Nolasco Raposo, Mormugao PI Ninad Deulkar, deputy superintendent of police Vasco and Margao Lawrence D’Souza and Dinraj Govekar respectively tried to convince the agitated villagers. The deputy superintendent of police (traffic) North Dharmesh Angle who was also stuck due to the blockade, made all-out efforts to convince the aggrieved villagers, but failed to convince the crowd.
Nuvem MLA Wilfred D’Sa alias Babashan also supported the agitated villagers which included panch members of Majorda village panchayat. D’Sa said, “Around 150 people have died in road accidents on Pirni-Verna bypass. I am also supporting the agitated villagers,” said D’Sa and further demanded that the state government make immediate provision to erect the speed breakers and traffic signals in order to avoid accidents on the stretch. He however sarcastically questioned whether the state government is waiting for loss of lives of more innocent people in mishaps.
The agitated villagers informed that the additional collector South Margao L S R Pereira has written a letter to the executive engineer WD XIV (NH) PWD Fatorda Margao, requesting to erect speed breakers on NH-14 and bypass of Nuvem and Verna which were removed during the BRICS Summit.
Despite a reminder on February 23, 2017 by the office of the additional collector South Margao, the PWD authorities failed to take appropriate action. Villagers of Colva, Betalbatim, Utorda, Majorda, Ambebhag, Ambeque, Verna, Senaulim, Pirni, Cansaulim, Arossim, Velsao, Cuelim and others commute on the Pirni-Verna
The superintendent of police South Chandan Choudhary gave a patient hearing to the agitated villagers including elected representatives. She succeeded in convincing the crowd to leave by giving an assurance to take up their demand with the concerned authorities and forward a request to the state government for immediate implementation of erecting the speed breakers and the traffic signals at major junctions.
She maintained that the national highways are meant for the free movement of vehicles and due to which the speed breakers which were erected earlier by the authorities have been removed from the stretch. “The concerned authorities need to take special permission to erect speed breakers or rumble strips at major junctions,” said Choudhary. The agitated villagers finally left at around 10.10 am.
Meanwhile, a lady patient who was being taken to a hospital by her family members in a vehicle was also stuck up in the blockage. However, the vehicle was allowed to move.