Where there’s a will, there’s a bridge, in Uttar Pradesh

February 18th, 2009 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Feb 18 (IANS) A 200-foot-long bridge under construction in an Uttar Pradesh town is founded on determination, cooperation and willpower of hundreds of villagers, who are setting it up without any assistance from the government.

Residents of nearly 300 villages in the Puwayan tehsil of Shahjahanpur district, about 240 km from state capital Lucknow, have been demanding construction of the bridge over the Khannaut river for the past several years.

The bridge would enable farmers to reach markets in Pilibhit district across the river. It would help carry relief operations faster in case of natural disasters, the residents point out.

“Fed up with the government not keeping its assurances, we set up self-help groups and decided to construct the bridge through mutual assistance,” Joginder Singh, a resident of Balhera village who is involved in the construction, told IANS on phone.

“Villagers are contributing voluntarily to raise funds for the construction. Some donate money, while others provide their agriculture produce, including wheat and other food grains to generate funds for construction,” local legislator Mithlesh Kumar told IANS from Puwayan.

The residents say they moved into action when no work was undertaken even nine months after the foundation stone of the bridge was laid in December 2005.

While farmers work as voluntary labourers, retired engineers provide technical assistance required to build the bridge. No one knows how much money has been spent on it so far, and how much more will be needed.

“Members of the Sikh community have roped in retired engineers from Punjab who are monitoring the project,” said Rajiv Singh, another resident of Balhera village.

“In the next one year, we believe the construction will be over and the bridge ready for use,” he added.

District authorities do not like to talk about why the government delayed building the bridge but are full of praise for the teamwork of the local people.

“It’s truly amazing. By setting up a bridge that measures nearly 200 feet by mutual assistance, the villagers have achieved a feat which may sound impossible to many,” subdivisional magistrate H. Ram told IANS.

He added that the district administration has now sent a report to the state government, seeking financial assistance to complete the construction.

“As per the original plan, the bridge would be 400 feet long and 24 feet wide. Once built it would connect several villages of Shahjahanpur to Pilibhit district,” said Ram.

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