Reported by Ranjan Rath
Malkangiri, May 1:
Construction of the bridge on River Gurupriya, a long-cherished dream of the tribals of the cut-off areas in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, has finally got underway amid tight security by BSF personnel.
The construction of the bridge is being undertaken by the Kolkata-based Royal Infra Construction Ltd.
Though the state government had earlier invited tenders three times for construction of the bridge, there were no bidders for the proposed project as the area was considered a den of the Maoists.
Though Gammon India had taken up the construction work, it had to leave midway after its temporary camp was blown away by the Maoists.
The tribals have been living in this cut-off area since 1964 after the construction of the Chitrakonda dam project for the Balimela Hydropower project.
This cut-off area has 154 villages spread over seven panchayats with a population of 30,000 tribals. The only means of communication for these tribals to reach the outside world are some old and tattered wooden boats and a motor launch that frequently malfunctions.
Former chief minister JB Patnaik had laid the foundation stone for the construction of Gurupriya bridge way back in 1982. But no company evinced interest in the proposed bridge due to the fear of the Maoists.
The estimated cost of the bridge, which was Rs 4 crore in 1982, has now gone up to Rs 172 crore.
To ensure uninterrupted construction of the bridge, the state government has deployed BSF personnel, who have set up five camps between Chitrakonda and Janbai.
Assured of its safety, the company has started the RCC piling work of the 900-metre bridge.
“We had been hearing from our forefathers that there will be a pucca road to our village and a bridge will come up on Gurupriya river. Thank God, the work has finally begun. But considering the present situation in the area, we are not sure whether we would be able to see the completion of the bridge in our lifetime,” said Rama Khara of Badapada village.
However, Sibaram Pangi and Parsuram Khara of Panasput village were optimistic about the project.
“Had the state government stepped up security measures for construction of the bridge 30 years ago, we would have seen the movement of vehicles in our area by now,” they said.
Talking about the project, Arun Kumar Sahu, executive engineer (Works) of Malkangiri district informed that the bridge is expected to be completed in three years.