Mrunal Manmay Dash

In what could be termed as sheer government apathy, a State Highway in Odisha has become the sorrow for the locals of two districts due to an alleged power tussle between two government departments.

State Highway-19 connecting Shergad in Balasore to Jharanaghati in Mayurbhanj has reportedly become a bane for the commuters of these two districts. This pothole-filled road has allegedly witnessed many accidents and mishaps in the past. The road condition has become so dire that four-wheelers and two-wheeler riders find it difficult to negotiate the innumerable potholes on the 35 km stretch.

“I had gone to fill patrol in my scooter. But I lost my balance and fell on the road because of a big pothole. The contractors are not doing their job. The road condition is very poor here,” said a local Hemara Majhi.

After many requests and protests, the government finally sanctioned Rs 72.5 crore for its repair. The work began in July 2023. But unfortunately, the road is only half repaired. While one side of the road which comes under Kuladiha Sanctuary, has been repaired, the other side of the road, which comes under Nilagiri forest range is still in a dilapidated condition.

“One side of the road is slightly elevated because of recent repair, while the other side of the road is below it and filled with potholes. The road has become too dangerous for the two-wheeler riders. Both the departments are involved in a dispute making the common man bear its consequence,” said a local Sarbeswar Sahu.

While the resentment among the locals has begun to skyrocket, the Works department, repairing the road blamed the Nilagiri forest range for stalling the work by not allowing to repair it.

“Ranger madam had come to my office with her forest guards and told me to not proceed with the repair work anymore. She told me to obtain permission from the forest department first. We had sent a letter asking for permission to the DFO. But he has not replied till now,” alleged PwD Junior Engineer Laxman Singh.

Asked about the allegations, Nilagiri Ranger Ayesha A Nisha said, “This is not a big problem. We have not stopped the work. All we need is a clearance which we have not received yet. Permission is already there for road widening. But we never received permission for road repairs. That is why work is stalled.”

Meanwhile, people are so fed up with the alleged government apathy and departmental red tapism that they are beginning to fill some potholes on the road themselves.