Forest funds hitch in hill road repair RAJEEV RAVIDAS
Kalimpong, July 6: For villagers of Nimbong and Pabringtar, last week’s landslides could only be a precursor to a long period of hardship as the road link to Bakrakote, the lifeline for the area, could take a while to restore. The landslides, according to the villagers in Kalimpong Block I, have damaged the road in many places, a major portion of which belongs to the forest department. And the problem lies there. The Kalimpong division of the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation said unavailability of funds could delay the work. At a time when even the staff salaries were being paid from funds meant for other divisions, arranging money for other work would be difficult, said U. Ghosh, the divisional manager. “The disruption is hampering our protection work as well, but the fact is that we don’t have any money of our own.” The corporation has not been able to engage itself in timber trade following the yearlong ban imposed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha as part of its agitation for Gorkhaland. The corporation earns between Rs 9 crore and Rs 12 crore annually by auctioning off timber grown in the subdivision. “We are trying (to get the ban lifted), and have been in talks with the political party (read Morcha),” said Ghosh. However, that is little consolation to villagers for whom the road is the lifeline. Edwin Subba, a Morcha leader, said Bakrakote in the plains was 25km from Nimbong and from there it was easier to reach Siliguri. “We bring all our supplies through this road. Now with the road damaged, prices of all items will go up,” he added. In fact, the villages were cut off from the rest of the world till yesterday when the road link to Kalimpong via Kafer was restored. The other and shorter road to the subdivisional headquarters via Khani and Relli, too, is blocked because of multiple landslides. “The relief materials sent by the administration reached us last night and were distributed today,” Subba said over the phone from Borbat, 5km from Nimbong. The 35-odd families hit by landslides in the area are living with their relatives. “The landslide has taken away our house and our land. People from the block development office have taken our records, but I don’t know what good will come out of it,” said Chandramaya, the daughter-in-law of B.B. Mangar, the lone landslide casualty.