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A bridge too far for Mukul

The footbridge in Williamnagar. Picture by Saidul Khan

Tura, Aug. 10: The longest footbridge in Meghalaya, completed a few months ago, is all ready for inauguration.

However, the inauguration has been stalled by a section of villagers who feel that as the bridge is a project undertaken by them under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the politician should not be given credit.

The footbridge, measuring 176 metres in length and 1.2 metres in breadth, connects Kusimkolgre locality of Williamnagar to Chachatgre and other adjoining villages.

Though the bridge has not been inaugurated, it is already being used by villagers, who live on the other side of the Simsang River.

Chief minister Mukul Sangma was scheduled to inaugurate the bridge in June. However, in the absence of social welfare minister Deborah C. Marak, Mukul postponed the inauguration.

The bridge was again scheduled for inauguration in Marak’s presence yesterday, but a section of the villagers was not happy with the idea.

“We are not against politicians but we feel that it is our work and nobody should take credit for its completion,” said Bolwin Momin, a village elder.

The headman of Chachatgre village, Armen D. Shira said, “Job-card holders from five villages have contributed 40 man days from each household for the completion of the bridge. Many feel that there is no contribution from the politicians, so it should not be inaugurated by them.”

In September 2012, five village employment councils under Samanda block took up the initiative to construct the footbridge.

The villages are Chachatgre, Bolkingre, Ashabibra, Ganinggre and Ganingbibra.

Altogether 382 households have contributed to the construction of the bridge, constructed at a cost of Rs 1.05 crore.

In the absence of a bridge connecting villages on the other side of the Simsang in Williamnagar under Samanda development block, the people had faced hardship for ages.

The villages depend on Williamnagar for different needs.

The chief minister, who was in Williamnagar yesterday, said, “We have reports that some vested interest groups have worked to influence the villagers. We have asked for an inquiry into it.”

He said a special court would be set up in the state to deal with cases relating to disturbance of peace. “A fast-track court will ensure that the cases are completed within two to three months,” he added.