Chamling briefs Prime Minister on NH 31A

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Gangtok, Jul 4 (UNI) Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling today called on Prime Minister Monmohan Singh and briefed the situation arising out of Darjeeling agitation's affect on the himalayan state.

The Supreme Court in a diretive on a petition had directed the Centre, Sikkim and the West Bengal government to keep open the NH 31A, the sole link of Sikkim with the rest of the country.

The 120-kms highway that connects Gangtok, Sikkim's capital, and Siliguri in West Bengal, becomes first casualty whenever bandh in the neighbourhoods.

Mr Chamling has taken up the issue with the central leaders as road connectivity was lifeline for Sikkim as the landlocked state does not have any rail and air link.

Mr Chamling also called on Union Home minister Shivraj Patil, who assured him of all types of assitance for keeping open the hilly roads.

''Sikkim is suffering a huge economic loss to the tune of Rs.7 crore a day besides incalculable hardships to the people, tourists, students and patients,'' Mr Chamling told the Prime Minister.

''The saga of bandhs on NH 31A started in 1986, 'their frequency, extent and scope has now become alarming to the levels and it appears during those phases that the entire state has been taken to ransom for no reason of fault of ours'', Mr Chamling said.

Mr Chamling also requested for additional helicopter services with enhance capacity till the pending airport at Pakyong in East Sikkim was commissioned.

Mr Chamling also sought the Prime Minister's assistance for expediting the approval for construction of new alternate national highway connecting Gangtok in view of the frequent disruption of traffic on the existing NH 31A, a government communique quoting the chief minister said.

The alternate highway assumed importance for Sikkim not only because of bandhs but also due to frequent landslides that occur during every monsoon.

Mr Patil also advised the Sikkim government to enhance the storage capacity of essential commodities including petroleum products to take care of any unavoidable exigency.

UNI BG PC RL RK1834

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