Expressing deep anguish over the escalating accident deaths along the urban stretches of the recently four-laned Tiruchi-Thanjavur National Highway, hundreds of people gathered for a day-long fast demonstration at Kailash Nagar on Sunday to demand immediate laying of service roads on the 14.5 -km- long urban stretch between Palpannai-Thuvakkudi.

The service roads should be laid on a war footing to prevent further loss of lives, the demonstrators emphasised, and wanted the Government to refuse permission for collection of toll for usage of the four-way road until the service lanes were laid. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) must pay one lakh rupees to the kin of each accident victim, and another two lakh rupees must be paid to each affected family from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. Those maimed or injured must be paid adequate compensation, the protestors insisted, while calling for prompt initiation and implementation of the work on service-roads in a time-bound manner.

The protest was carried out under the aegis of the Federation for Retrieval of Tiruchi-Palpannai-Thuvakkudi Service Roads spear-headed by the Joint Action Committee of ‘Federation of Ellakudi Township Welfare Associations and other welfare associations functioning from the plethora of residential localities on either sides of the stretch. The Federation has been campaigning on the issue for the last 10 months.

Maintaining that four-laning of the urban stretches without service lanes amounted to contravention of NHAI norms, speakers lamented the residents of the localities along the stretch have been traumatised by the continuous accident deaths.

The decision on fast demonstration was taken at a recent consultative meeting attended by representatives of the residents' and welfare associations, and trade union representatives of BHEL, Ordnance Factory, Heavy Alloy Penetrator Project and Southern Railway.

Terming BHEL as the largest beneficiary, speakers at the meeting wanted the BHEL management to prevail upon the Central Government to get the service roads laid in right earnest. The Federation has already obtained signature from 4,170 BHEL employees at all levels to highlight the demand to the BHEL management.

S. Subramanian, president, Federation of Ellakudi Township Welfare Associations, presided over the demonstration that had the participation of two MPs. While Tiruchi Lok Sabha MP P. Kumar addressed the gathering earlier in the day promising the fullest support of the AIADMK for achieving the objective, the speech of Rajya Sabha MP T.K. Rangarajan expressing solidarity with the cause marked the culmination of the demonstration.