The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 29 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Road to rural empowerment
Path easies daily woes

The Telegraph captures the hopes and aspirations paved by a gravel road built by Pengera gaon panchayat under Amguri Assembly constituency

Amguri (Sivasagar), Jan. 28: The conversion of a dirt track into a gravel road that links Borbam tea estate to National Highway 61 via Heujpur village has brought cheer to 500 families living in the garden that falls under Pengera gaon panchayat.

It’s a small stretch — just a kilometre in length — but it has made a huge impact on the residents, not only in the way they conduct their daily chores but also in the way they look at the panchayati raj system, which strives to provide power to the grassroots by empowering them to address governance issues.

They are also looking at the ensuing panchayat elections as a harbinger of real change — flags of either the Congress or the AGP or the BJP are found fluttering in almost every household — as the gravel road, funded by the Congress-controlled Pengera gaon panchayat, has made their lives more comfortable.

About 800 metres of the road, which was built between June and December last year, passes through the garden and rest through Heujpur. The garden is about 6km from Amguri town and about 35km from Sivasagar town under Amguri Assembly constituency. The seat is at present represented by Congress stalwart and former transport minister Anjan Dutta, who wrested it from Pradip Hazarika (who was transport minister in the AGP government) in the 2011 polls.

Locals can’t stop counting the benefits of the link road.

Usha Moni, a retired labourer of the garden, said the dirt road used to turn slushy during the rains, forcing them to take a detour of about 2km. She hoped things would be better henceforth.

Joydeep Tanti and his wife Birsi are happy that they can now reach the nearby market in a jiffy. Shankar Nayak and Rupam Manki, who were bringing firewood on a handcart by the new road, said it has helped them save time and energy. Manki said temporary workers of the garden, who work as daily wage earners when there is no work in the estate, can now board buses plying on the highway on time.

Residents of the garden also got work under MGNREGA during construction of the link road.

Expectations, understandably, are soaring.

Asked what they expected from the elected members of the new gram panchayat, the residents hoped they would maintain the road well. “We hope the new gram panchayat will make the road pucca, like the other roads inside the garden, which have been constructed by the garden management,” Nayak said.

Nabin Hazarika of Heujpur hoped the new gram panchayat would install streetlights along the new road and set up water harvesting projects to tide over the dry season.

“The road has shown that there can be a world of difference if the panchayats function properly. We will keep a close eye on the new members,” Hazarika said, implying that the residents are aware of their role in turning the gram panchayat into an effective tool of development.

Statistics made available by the gram panchayat show the road was constructed at a cost of Rs 4.93 lakh, of which Rs 3.3 lakh was spent on labour charges and Rs 1.62 lakh on materials.