Odisha tribal boatman mortgages farm to build bamboo bridge

The 100-metre-long bridge built over Indravati River connects two southern Odisha districts of Koraput and Nabarangpur

A tribal boatman in Odisha’s Koraput district has built a bamboo bridge by mortgaging his sugarcane farm after the country boat he was operating to ferry people was damaged.

The 100-metre-long bridge built over Indravati River by the boatman, Jayadev Bhatra, connects two southern Odisha districts of Koraput and Nabarangpur and has become the lifeline for about 10,000 people of three panchayats.

The boatman had long been ferrying people on his country boat Basuli Ghat and he was assisted by his son, Banamali Bhatra. The Indravati River separates Koraput’s Gumudi panchayat from Kantasaraguda panchayat of Nabarangpur district.

People of Kantasaraguda depend on Kotpad block of Koraput district and hence have to cross the river. A bridge has been proposed at Chirma Ghat but could not be completed due to land dispute and so people come to Basuli Ghat and cross the river on Mr. Bhatra’s boat.

“The boat became too old to carry so many people on daily basis. People decided to construct a temporary bridge at Basuli Ghat till the Government completed a permanent bridge at Chirma. The first year people contributed to the construction of a bamboo-made bridge. But, after some months the contribution stopped coming,” said the boatman.

“Since we started the bridge and it was too risky to ferry people by boat, I could not back out. I started completing the bridge, bearing its cost. As I did not have ready cash available for bearing labour cost, I had to mortgage my three-acre sugarcane farm. I have so far spent ₹1lakh,” he said.

Gumuda gram panchayat sarpanch Sonaru Pujari said the Government had been informed on a number of occasions about the necessity of a bridge. “The Government has made a preliminary survey. But, the current temporary bridge has been built by Jaydev Bhatra out of his own fund. We have not made any contribution,” said Mr. Pujari.

When asked the Nabarangpur collector Kamal Lochan Mishra said, “I have come across the report of a bridge constructed by individual effort. It is embarrassing that a person had to build a temporary bridge. I have sought a report from executive engineer of Rural Development department about proposed bridge,” said Mr. Mishra.

In a similar effort, a retired livestock inspector had spent ₹16 lakh out of his post-retirement fund to build a 270-foot-long bridge near his village in Hatadihi block in Keonjhar district. Though the bridge is complete, the approach road has not been laid.

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