Pradeep Pattanayak

If you are going from Bhubaneswar to Puri by road, three road signs at Sisupalgarh on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar displaying the distance to the pilgrim city from the capital city may trouble you as they display three different numbers. 

At Sisupalgarh, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has put up a road sign mentioning the distance between Bhubaneswar and Puri to be 52 kilometers. The road sign put up by the State government’s Works Department claims the same to be 50 kilometers. Then there's a milestone that pegs the distance between the two cities at 56 kilometers. 

Similarly, a road sign at one place says that the distance between Sisupalgarh and Konark is 55 kilometers while another signage claims the distance to be 56 kilometers. 

The ambiguity in these road signs is enough to make one irritated. 

But one question which automatically comes to mind is that are the bus passengers coughing up extra bucks due to this ambiguity. 

“Earlier the STA had a Traffic Survey Unit. It has long been closed. Since the distances between places over the years have reduced, fares as per the old distances are being collected from bus passengers,” alleged Subrat Nanda, Road Safety activist. 

Many even questioned how the Works department is awarding the tenders for the construction of the road, without knowing the exact distance.  

“We mention the distance in kilometers in tickets. It is verified by the State Transport Authority (STA),” said Debasish Nayak, Spokesperson, State Bus Owners’ Association.  

When contacted, Principal Secretary of the Commerce and Transport Department, Usha Padhi said, “We have a process. Whenever a rate is fixed for a particular distance, a committee of the State Transport Authority (STA) comprising experts deliberates on it. If there is any anomaly, we will address the issue.”

Notably, the State Transport department had to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 for not being able to furnish details about actual distance after queries were made under the RTI act by RTI activist Pradeep Pradhan.  

“I first sought information from the Transport department. They couldn’t furnish it. The same was sent to the Engineer in Chief of the Works department. He too failed. Thereafter, it was sent to the Transport Commissioner, and he too failed,” said Pradhan.

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