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Villagers build bridge with their money

Behrampore, Sept. 21: It is a dream come true for the people of Kapasdanga, a remote village under Beldanga police station about 185 km from Calcutta.

Calamity — political or natural — could not deter the poor villagers to pursue the dream. The dream of a bridge over the Dumnidaha river that would not get swept away every rainy season.

It took them little time to realise that government help was not forthcoming. And, instead of lamenting for what was not to be, the residents rallied together to generate their own funds.

Since 1978, the villagers did not consume the sugar they bought from the local ration shop. They sold their quota in the open market. An unofficial levy was imposed on people crossing the makeshift bamboo bridge on the river to give shape to a dream.

After more than 25 years of sacrifice, the residents have indeed built a concrete bridge, worth Rs 21 lakh — 40 metres in length and three metres in width. All of it with their own money.

In the 25 years that the villagers took to raise money for the concrete bridge, the Murshidabad administration remained indifferent to their woes.

Neither political violence, which claimed 10 lives in the past decade, nor the flood of 2000 that caused heavy damage to the half-built bridge could stall construction work or dent the villagers’ grit.

The CPM, the Congress and the RSP have taken turns in capturing the local panchayat but none of the parties dared to interfere with the work voluntarily undertaken by the villagers.

“We had built a metre-wide footpath along the bridge but it was totally destroyed by the flood water. As directed by the engineer supervising the construction, the damaged concrete footpath was replaced by one made of iron,” said Ghani Mondal, the secretary of the committee that monitored the construction of the bridge.

“Today, the villagers can cross Dumnidaha on foot or in jeeps or trekkers. Our only regret is that persons like Nur Nabi Mondal and Ilambari Mondal, who took the initiative for the construction of the bridge, are no longer there,” he rued.

Abdul Bari, the panchayat chief, said the villagers had received only empty assurances from political parties at the time of elections. “These parties never cared to implement their poll pledge. The Beldanga panchayat samiti members even made fun of the villagers’ efforts to raise pillars for the bridge, which was ultimately constructed without any help from the zilla parishad or the panchayat samiti,” said Bari.

Beldanga’s block development officer Enaur Rehman admitted that the Dumnidaha bridge was built by the villagers. He could not say why the district administration could not extend any help for the project. “All that I can say is that the bridge will serve as a vital link,” he said.

The news about the new bridge came as a “pleasant surprise” to district magistrate Manoj Panth.

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