State fails, Odisha man completes bridge with own savings

Bhubaneswar: Frustrated with years of government apathy, a retired employee of the Veterinary Department has invested all his savings in completing a half-finished bridge over Salandi river in Odisha’s Keonjhar district.

Gangadhar Rout of Kanpur village in Hatadihi block has already spent around Rs 10 lakh on the bridge, which once ready would connect more than two panchayats. He plans to spend an additional Rs 2 lakh on its completion by the end of June or July.

The villagers have been demanding a bridge across Salandi for over two decades, in absence of which several panchayats in Hatadihi block remain cut off from each other during monsoon. They say they also find it difficult to reach their fields, which are on the other side of the river.

A decade ago, the Hatadihi block administration started constructing a bridge, but left it midway due to shortage of funds. Now the villagers have no option but to use a rickety bamboo bridge during the monsoon.

With the district administration showing no interest in completing the half-finished bridge despite repeated requests, Rout decided to complete it himself and invested all his savings in relaunching the project in March last year. The construction is now in its last phase.

“When I saw the problems of the villagers, I decided to spend my entire provident fund to complete the bridge. My family backed my decision as two of my sons are not dependent on me. The bridge will connect our village with other panchayats,” Rout told IANS.

He, however, rued that no one from the village offered him any help in his endeavour.

Though a little late in the day, the Keonjhar administration has also woken up to the villagers’ plight. District Collector Ashish Thakre told IANS: “A team has already visited the site. The administration will complete the bridge with its resources.”

Rout didn’t seem much pleased with this delayed offer of help from the state. “The district administration should instead construct an approach road to the bridge for the movement of vehicles,” he said.