Controversy over Andaman highway deepens

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Port Blair, Mar 2 (UNI) The Andaman Trunk Road (ATR), the only National Highway in the islands, connecting South Andaman with North Andaman, has become the topic of hot dispute between the various political parties in the islands.

While the Andaman units of the Congress and BJP had been demanding reversal of the Centre's decision on entrusting the maintenance work of the ATR(NH 223) to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), various other political parties, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and CPI(M) were now demanding the retention of the ATR with the BRO.

In a recent letter addressed to the Lt Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the RJD, BSP, JMM and CPI(M) workers requested him not to reconsider the Centre's decision to entrust the expansion work of the ATR to the BRO.

''Past experience shows that the Andaman Public Works Department (APWD) cannot complete the work in a time-bound and desired manner,'' the letter stated.

The letter also alleged that the APWD had been unable to complete the work entrusted to it in various areas of the islands.

''Construction of a large number of residential accommodations for government employees are considerably delayed, from Diglipur to Campbell Bay, as the APWD has been unable even to start the work so far,'' the letter, jointly signed by leaders of the RJD, BSP, JMM and CPI(M), added.

However, the Congress and BJP had written several letters to the Union Road Transport Ministry and the local administration demanding of handing over the road back to the APWD.

''The demand of the RJD, BSP, JMM and CPI(M) leaders is against the public will and the future of these islands'', chief spokesperson of the Andaman and Nicobar Territorial Congress K Ganeshan told UNI today.

The Congress and BJP alleged that if a major work like the ATR maintenance went to ''alien'' firms like the BRO, the APWD would suffer heavy losses which would affect the future and employment opportunities of hundreds of qualified engineers in the islands.

Recently, the Union Home Ministry and local administration had assured lone MP of the islands Manoranjan Bhakta, who was on hunger strike, that the ATR would not be handed over to the BRO for the time being.

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