Aftaab Khan, his wife and two children were on their dream weekend trip. Driving from Delhi they were to reach Mussorie by noon and spend two days relaxing in the cool climes of the hill station. Little did they realize that fate had other designs for them. Barely ten minutes from Dehra Dun, they were struck for 6 hours in a traffic jam at the Dat Ki Devi tunnel, due to overturning of a truck. Stranded in the middle of nowhere in scorching heat, with no water, toilets or anything to eat and no way to contact the outside world, their holiday soon turned into a nightmare.
“This story is not unique, it is repeated dozens of times every single day” says Pandit Anoop Mangain, priest at the Dat Ki Devi Temple. Living in the area for past 16 years, Pandit Anoop has seen the traffic problem getting worse with time. “Be it day or night, the line of vehicles at times stretches upto 3 kms on both sides, leaving people helpless” he says. The tunnel marks the border between UP and Uttarakhand, one side of tunnel being Uttarakhand and the Delhi side being UP.
Traffic Jams are a norm at the tunnel enterance
According to noted Doon Historian, Devki Nandan Pandey, the tunnel was built in 1815 by Sir Proby Cautley (the man who built Ganga Canal in 1840), to facilitate the movement of British Troops into the Doon Valley and since then it has remained unchanged. Barely 25 feet wide, the tunnel is just wide enough for a truck and one small vehicle to cross over at the same time, two trucks coming in opposite direction at the same time invariably get stuck. The tunnel is simply too narrow to handle the present day traffic. Add to this, the “Me First” attitude of most drivers, the heavy trawlers, the container trucks which use the road, the total absence of Traffic Police on either side of the tunnel and the stage is set for a one big traffic mess.
“Surveys have been carried out a number of times to build a 1 km bypass road around the tunnel, so that traffic becomes one way, the most recent survey being 2 months back, but since it is the boundary between two states, nothing happens” informs Pandit Anoop. Compounding the problem is the potholed condition of the UP side of the road, which coupled with sharp hill bends, makes trucks turn turtle, thus blocking the road for hours. Most of the bridges too are narrow & run down and an invitation to accidents. “This being the border area of UP, is absolutely irrelevant to the rulers in Lucknow, but since it is the road connecting Delhi to Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand government should step in and pressurize the UP officials to keep the road in good condition” he continues. In contrast, the road on the Uttarakhand side is a smooth double lane highway.
Compounding the problem is the fact that thousands of devotees flock to the temple every day and since there is no provision for parking, dozens of parked cars and scooters clog the already narrow road. “We’ve appealed to DM Saharanpur to make a parking and a public toilet a number of times but no one listens” complains Pandit Anoop.
Truck turned turtle blocking the road
It is obvious that the Delhi Dehra Dun highway matters more to Uttarakhand than to UP as most residents and tourists use the road to go to and from Dehra Dun / Mussorie. The Government of Uttarakhand must step in and improve the condition on the UP side of the tunnel because it directly affects Uttarakhand. Letting the status quo to continue will only worsen the condition making travel between Doon and Delhi a nightmare for everyone.
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