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Bridge opening twice in one day

- Ribbon cut before minister’s remote-control inauguration

Alipurduar, Oct. 14: A bridge in Kalchini had the rare fortune of a double inauguration in the span of half an hour today, after the residents waited three months for its opening.

The bridge on the river Dima in Alipurduar’s Kalchini block was first inaugurated by a garden manager who was cajoled into doing so by the local people around 11am. Around 11.30, state PWD minister threw the bridge open through a remote control opening ceremony in Jalpaiguri, about 100km from Kalchini.

Yesterday evening, the local people got information that the 100-metre-long bridge, which connects Jainti, Buxa and Santlabari with Kalchini, would be inaugurated by minister Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar from Jalpaiguri through remote control.

This angered the residents who thought it would be a “shame” that a bridge which they regarded important was being inaugurated from far away.

Villagers from the nearby areas decided that the bridge must be inaugurated at the spot this morning before the minister inaugurates it.

The manager of the nearby Atiabari Tea Estate, C.K. Pandey, was invited to cut a ribbon and the bridge was declared open around 11am.

Local people broke a coconut, played with colours and distributed sweets.

Half-an-hour later, the same bridge was inaugurated from Jalpaiguri along with four other bridges.

“The construction was completed three months ago but the ministers did not get the time to inaugurate it. Today, the bridge was opened by a remote control. It is a shame. It is a very important bridge for us. The state government has played with the emotions of the people,” said Gourango Bhattacharjee, a resident of Rajabhatkhawa.

The opening of the bridge would benefit 70,000 people as it would reduce the distance between the block headquarters in Kalchini and Jainti, Buxa, Santlabari and Rajabhatkhaowa by 20km. Residents of these areas had to travel to Alipurduar town, over 15km away, and take NH31C via Nimati to reach Kalchini, a distance of over 45km. The bridge would be open to four wheelers and buses.

In the monsoon, Kalchini becomes inaccessible to people of these areas as the Dima swells and cannot be crossed by foot or any other means.

According to sources, the foundation stone of the bridge over the Dima was laid two decades ago.

The bridge was completed three months ago and the date of inauguration has since been cancelled at least five times.

Chandra Sen Khati, the block development officer of Kalchini, said he did not know about the two inaugurations.

“I do not have any information that the bridge has been inaugurated by the honourable minister from Jalpaiguri or that it has been inaugurated by the local people. But the one thing I know is that the bridge is very important to the people here,” he said.

Minister Ghosh Dastidar also inaugurated four other bridges by a remote control from Jalpaiguri today. Bridges over the Panga and the Chekomari rivers in Rajganj, the Madhubani river in Dhupguri and over the Barohati in Mainaguri were all declared open today.