The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 11 , 2014
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Elusive bridge is everybody’s election plank

- All parties focus on lack of concrete connector over Jalangi

Tehatta, March 10: When parties start talking about the bamboo bridge across the Jalangi, people in Tehatta know that the elections must be near.

A temporary bamboo bridge that connects two blocks of Tehatta has become the Lok Sabha poll plank for Trinamul, CPM, Congress and the BJP this year.

Tehatta I and II are in the Krishnagar Lok Sabha constituency, where Trinamul’s Tapas Pal is the sitting MP. Pal had during his 2009 Lok Sabha campaign promised the villagers that he would ensure a concrete bridge was built across the river.

Similar promises had been made by Pal’s rival candidates.

Five years later, the villagers are yet to get the concrete bridge.

Pal today said he could not keep his promise as villagers living near the river were reluctant to give land for the approach roads to the bridge. The residents said they did not know their land was required.

Pal’s rivals have raked up the bridge as an example of indifference of the Trinamul government. The bridge has figured in the speeches of Pal and the CPM and BJP candidates in the past few days. The Congress is yet to announce its nominee for the Krishnagar seat.

The private contractor who maintains the bridge takes Rs 2 from each person who uses the connector. During the monsoon, the bridge is usually dismantled by the contractor as the river swells.

Cars are not allowed to use the bamboo structure, they are transported across the river on motored rafts.

The villagers said they had been pleading for a proper bridge for years but to no avail.

A schoolteacher in Tehatta block II, Safiqul Mandal, said: “I often have to visit the district inspector’s office in Tehatta town for administrative work. I come by bus till the riverbank and then walk cross the bamboo bridge or take a boat if it is the monsoon. The political parties make the bridge their poll plank every time. When they start talking about it, we know it’s time for the elections. We badly need a concrete bridge here.”

When Pal had gone to Tehatta to campaign for the previous Lok Sabha polls in 2009, many had gathered on the bridge to see the actor. The bridge, unable to withstand the weight, collapsed. No one died in the accident and Pal was inadvertently made aware of the need of a concrete connector.

The Trinamul MP, who has been renominated from the seat, today said that after he made the promise, he learnt that the Left government, too, had a plan to make a concrete bridge there but it could not be implemented as a section of the villagers refused to give land for the approach roads.

“I will try to fulfil my promise if elected again,” Pal said today.

The CPM candidate for Krishnagar, Santanu Jha, said his party would make Pal’s unfulfilled promise his poll plank.

Jha said: “Trinamul did nothing about the bridge in five years. They were in power in the local Hanspukuria panchayat before we took over last year, but could not convince the villagers to give land for the bridge’s approach roads. The funds remained unutilised.”

BJP candidate Satyabrata Mukherjee echoed Jha.

Although the Congress is yet to announce its candidate, Ganesh Biswas, the president of the party’s unit in Tehatta, said: “The bridge is a major poll issue for the Congress and we will criticise Tapas Pal.”

District officials said four acres were required to construct the approach roads. “Rs 80 lakh was sanctioned in 2010-2011,” an official said.

Villagers who own the land on which the approach roads would be built said they were unaware about any plan to build a concrete bridge.

Niranjan Haldar, whose house is situated on a 10- cottah plot in Tehatta block II, said: “We are unaware about any plan to construct a bridge across the Jalangi. We had never been informed by the administration that land belonging to some of us would be required for the approach roads. The administration is trying to put the blame on us to cover up its own failure.”

Asked why the Left Front government that ruled for three decades could not construct the bridge during its regime, pradhan of the now CPM-run Hanspukuria panchayat Sadhan Biswas said: “We did not realise that Tehatta would become a sub-division in 2002. Schools, colleges and offices came up as Tehatta became the sub-divisional headquarters. We could not gauge how important the issue of the bridge would become. The Trinamul government should have done it after coming to power.”