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Monday, June 09, 2014  
Life Hung on a Wire: A Bridge becomes a dream for Tribals of Kandhamal
"Kandhamal - the tribal dominated and forest rich district of Orissa that was worst affected in the months long violence is still struggling to come back to its normal state. Peace is partially established in the district. While the administration shows how serious it is about the rehabilitation and reconstruction activities, it is hardly bothered about the issues of thousands of people dreaming of a bridge over the hilly rivers flowing from Raikia between the villages like Banjamaha and Makabali villages and another near Dokarabadi in Simanbadi Panchayat."
Basudev Mahapatra
   

When everybody in power and politics is busy promoting ‘India Shining’ and presenting to the world a shining India, both the administration and leadership are still blind to the part that is dreaming of basic needs like a bridge to cross the river and connect villages with the rest of the world. To substantiate the view one needs to visit Raikia and Daringbadi blocks of the tribal dominated and forest rich district of Kandhamal in Orissa. You must appreciate the excellent skill of people walking over a wire to cross the river, but they are so unfortunate that they are forced to do so and risk their life just to reach the world beyond the boundaries of their villages. This is part of life of thousands of tribal and dalit families living in Banjamaha and four other Panchayats of Raikia Block and Simanbadi Panchayat of Daringbadi Block in Kandhamal.

The district that was worst affected in the months long violence is still struggling to come back to its normal state. Peace is partially established in the district. But there are still thousands of people dreaming of a bridge over the hilly river flowing from Raikia between the villages like Banjamaha and Makabali villages.

From children to old members of the villages nearby, everyone has to walk over the rope to cross the river and go to any place of utility. ‘This is the system since long and we have no other option than crossing the river on this wire only’, said Antapati Pradhan, Makabali Village.

Every need that needs to cross the river forces these people to risk their life. From going to school to go for marketing or a health check up, these people are to cross the river by walking on the wire tied to trees and logs on the bank.

This again is made by the people of the villages.

‘People of four Panchayats use this wire to cross the river. They are Baliguda, Nuagaon, Drepanga, Bandrabaju, Gudrikia etc.’, said Rajanikant Behera, Banjamaha village.

While explaining how the villagers are being troubled and how callous the administration has been to their issues, Rabindra Digal of banjamaha village said, ‘This rope way is used by more than 10,000 people. We are facing lots of troubles in the rainy days because of this. School children are remaining absent for many days. We face troubles even in attending courts and other government offices. Many are afraid of walking on the rope. The wire has taken more than 20 lives who fell into the river while crossing it. We have talked to the officers for a bridge over this. We met the collector 3-4 times. But nobody responds to our problems and we have to be satisfied with their promises without any action. Many times, in case of emergency, we are unable to take someone to the nearby hospital or go to the market for essential goods. Many patients die because of this’.

Same is the situation in Simanbadi Panchayat of Daringbadi Block in Kandhamal District. People of Dokarabadi and nearby villages are also forced to walk on a wire tied over Tikapaka river. At least seven thousand people from the nearby villages use this wire to cross the river, come out of the village and go to the market or any other place.

Even women and old people are supposed to walk on the rope risking their life or stay confined in their villages for months together. Think, if a pregnant woman with a little complicacy is required to visit a hospital. What she will do?

Even though from a different political party and accused of promoting violence in 2008, the local MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly} said, ‘the government is on its move to kill Kandhamal. It’s really shocking that after 63 years of independence thousands of people are still deprived of a bridge to cross the river and go out of the village.

However, the administrator specially designated to supervise development programmes in Kandhamal gives all blame to the geography.

‘There are many such villages getting isolated by small and big rivers during rainy season. The local geography is difficult as well. People use to live on hills where making a road is also a difficult job. But we are still planning to solve those issues under different programmes, said Madhusudan Padhi, Special Administrator, Kandhamal throwing few more promises without any definite time frame.

Any plea or reason for not making a bridge that would facilitate communication in a backward state like Kandhamal is shocking. More shocking is that, can we explain what these people have got even after 63 years of freedom? Just an annual celebration of Independence Day?

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