The dirt road beside the bridge that vehicles are forced to take. Picture by Samir Mondal
Debra, April 20: A bridge in West Midnapore constructed eight years ago is still to be opened to public as both the Left and Trinamul governments have not acquired land required for the approach roads, prompting the Congress to make its poll plank this year.
Both the governments had stayed away from acquiring the seven acres required for the roads to the bridge on the Kangsabati. In end 2006, Mamata Banerjee launched her anti-acquisition movement in Singur and in early 2007, the land agitation started in Nandigram.
According to a senior district official, “After the anti-acquisition movements were launched by the then Opposition Trinamul Congress, the ruling Left Front did not dare to acquire land for the approach road of the bridge in Debra. Similarly when Trinamul came to power, the government chose to ignore the issue as land acquisition was involved.”
The Congress candidate, Manas Bhuniya, said that he had made it his election plant in the area “as it is clear example how the Left as well as the Trinamul government had failed to serve the people.”
When the bridge was completed in 2006, the CPM had reaped its benefit and made it a plank for the assembly polls and won the seat. But the bridge could not be made operational, as the approach road had not been constructed.
In 2011, the Trinamul Congress also made the bridge a poll issue. Mamata Banerjee, who had addressed a public rally 3-km away from the bridge on April 13 prior to the 2011 Assembly polls and had promised to open the bridge for the public. “But Mamata Banerjee did not fulfil her promise. We have been focussing how Mamata Banerjee had taken the people for a ride. I have made this an issue in my poll campaign,” said Manas Bhuniya, Congress candidate for Ghatal.
The Left Front-led zilla parishad had started construction of 200 metre long and 10. 5 metre wide bridge in 2003 and completed it by 2006 prior to the Assembly polls at a cost of Rs 5.60 crore. “Besides, we had kept Rs one crore for construction of the 500-metre approach road. We had also started discussion with local people for acquiring land for that purpose. Many had willingly agreed to give us land,” said former zilla parishad functionary and CPM leader Sisir Mahapatra.
Mahapatra alleged that the Trinamul Congress leadership then started “misguiding the landowners. But the whole project had to be abandoned in the wake of the land acquisition movement that started in Singur and Nandigram.”
But over two lakh residents of at least 170 villages on the northern side of Kangsabati who were the direct sufferers started fuming. The bridge would have made their journey to Debra, Kharagpur and Calcutta comfortable. They are now dependent on boats to cross the river. In 2011, Trinamul candidate for Debra Radhakanta Maity won the seat.
After Trinamul came to power, Maity took the initiative to restart the work. The district wing of he PWD conducted a fresh survey and found out that seven acres in Loada would be required to build the sloping approach road.
But when the PWD officials went to demarcate the area by pegging it in early December of 2012, the owners of shops and houses located in the area resisted. After that the district administration made no further move to acquire land.
However, Debra MLA and Trinamul leader, Radhakanta Maity said, “We will persuade villagers to give up seven acres so that the approach road can be constructed.”
“We are tired of listening to the assurances of Left and Trinamul leaders. Now, Congress is assuring us that they will take up our cause,” said Tapan Ghosh, 55, a farmer of Trilochanpur.