The Tribune
Bhanu P Lohumi

The poor condition of rural and link roads in the apple belt and road connectivity in remote and tribal areas have become a major poll issue. Around 25% of 18,711 inhabited villages in Himachal are yet to get road connectivity.

The state has made rapid strides in expanding its road network and the total road length has increased to 38,470 km in 2022 but still 25% of total 18,711 villages with population of about 6 lakh are yet to get road connectivity. Moreover, 20% of the roads are not metalled.

As per a survey of 7,000 households by the Himachal Election Watch, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), roads are the most important poll issue, followed by water and unemployment.

About 42% people feel that roads were the main issue, says Dr OP Bhuraita, coordinator of the Himachal Election Watch. He adds that there are reports of villagers in Chopal and Rampur contemplating to boycott elections to highlight the issue.

The departments concerned have not intervened effectively following which local people have built roads on their own in violation of norms, says Rakesh Singha, CPM MLA from Theog. “I got over 176 forest clearances for roads during my present tenure”.

About 29 road projects were sanctioned for Jubbal-Kotkhai (heart of apple belt) during the Congress tenure as compared to only three during the BJP regime. The state has received Rs 2,293 crore under the PM’s Gram Sadak Yojana but still the constituency faces neglect, says Rohit Thakur, Congress MLA from Jubbal and Kotkhai. Only 30 km of old roads out of a total 1,200 km have been repaired and maintained, he adds.

The condition of the highway in Kinnaur is good and tarring work has been undertaken at several stretches of link roads, says BJP candidate from Kinnaur Surat Negi. He adds that good roads is the priority of the BJP. However, the road condition in the Sangla area is an issue. The tender was called for it but there were no bidders.

On an average, 1,100 persons are killed and 5,000 injured in about 3,000 accidents in Himachal every year. Bad roads are one of the several reasons behind accidents.

25% villages lack connectivity

  • 25 per cent of the 18,711 inhabited villages are yet to get road connectivity in Himachal
  • Roads are the lifeline in the state and a very important link between farms and mandis
  • Bad road conditions increase the transportation cost of farmers, besides rendering transportation hazardous
  • Villagers in Chopal and Rampur were contemplating boycott of elections to highlight the road issue, reports say
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