The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bridge in place, Basu missing

Alipurduar, Dec. 22: He crossed the bridge after dreaming about it for over three decades but would have liked to do so with Jyoti Basu.

For Sambhu Pal, an 81-year-old doctor from Alipurduar, the inauguration of the Siltorsha bridge today by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is the culmination of a 34-year-old struggle that found recognition following the intervention of the chief minister’s predecessor.

“Although I am happy that the bridge has finally been opened, my mind is heavy that Jyoti Basu is not present,” said Pal, a founder-member of the Siltorsha Bridge Sangram Committee that has been spearheading the movement for the bridge since 1968.

In 1994, at the Jalpaiguri Circuit House, Pal met Basu, then chief minister, who promised to look into the matter. “The following year, at the Holong Tourist Lodge in Jaldapara, Basu told me that Siltorsha bridge would definitely be constructed and that he would cross it with Pal on the day of its inauguration,” Pal said.

Pal did cross the bridge today, but had Bhattacharjee for company instead.

The old bridge was washed away by a devastating flood in 1949 and since then, there has been no link between Sonapur and Falakata. “Government officials had often told me that there was no way a bridge could be built on the dragon-like river,” Pal said.

The doctor has only one wish: the bridge be renamed Sangram Setu to recognise the struggle of the people of the Dooars.

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