The Manali-Kaza road is yet to be reopened for bigger vehicles this summer, with some officials blaming "confusion" between two Border Roads Organisation (BRO) units over which one of them is in charge of maintaining a four-kilometre stretch.
However, Brig D K Tyagi, Chief Engineer of BRO's Project Deepak, rejected the suggestion.
He said the repair work is on and the stretch will be made usable for all vehicles in the next few days.
But a recent visit to the spot had indicated that no work was then going on there. No bus has run this season on the Manali-Kaza route -- which remains closed most of the year due to snowfall and landslides – creating problems for tourists and the 16,000 residents of remote Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh.
An alternative road to Kaza in Spiti Valley remains open from Shimla, but it is much longer than the way from Manali.
The 170-km stretch from Samdo to a few kilometres beyond Batal on the Manali-Kaza road is supposed to fall under the jurisdiction of the BRO's 108 Road Construction Company (RCC).
The road from Chhota Dara to Gramphu is maintained by the 94 RCC.
The apparent row was over the short four-km stretch between Batal and a point near Chhota Dara.
A visit to the area recently indicated that none of the two BRO units were working on repairing the road.
Two "nullahs" flow over this stretch, which is also prone to frequent landslides.
Without maintenance, heavy vehicles cannot pass through this stretch.
However, cars and two-wheelers continue to negotiate it.
When contacted recently, C R Meena, Officer Commanding, 108 Road Construction Company of the BRO, said, "We have already put up a board after measuring 170-km-long road from Samdo, which falls under our jurisdiction."
The reference was to a board that marks the end of this unit's jurisdiction.
There was a similar response from the other unit.
"We have already marked the road that falls under our jurisdiction," Uma Shankar, commander of the 38 Task Force under which the 94 RCC falls, told PTI.
When contacted a few days earlier, Brig Tyagi, Chief Engineer of BRO's Project Deepak, said, "I was not aware of the issue. I will instruct both the RCCs heads to resolve the issue at the earliest."
On Saturday, he denied that there was any jurisdictional problem and said the road will reopen for all vehicles in the next few days.
Local residents complain about the apparent delay.
"This route opens only for two-three months during summer. The delay in opening it is creating problems for Spiti Valley residents and hundreds of tourists," said Rigzin Hayarappa.
Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) had tried to resume the services on the route to Spiti Valley on July 4, but its first bus was forced to return due to the damaged road near Chhota Dara.
The HRTC would run its bus on the Manali-Kaza route only after getting a road clearance certificate from the BRO, its regional manager Mangal Chand Manepa had then said.
Taumpa Laute, a Spiti resident said, "In the absence of a bus service, taxi operators are charging Rs 1,200 for each passenger from Manali to Kaza."