In the absence of government initiative, residents of a cluster of villages in Himachal’s Kangra district construct a makeshift bridge over the Neugal Khad every year to get easy access to hospitals, colleges and markets across the river.
This bridge however, lasts not more than 8-9 months, and gets destroyed by torrential rains during monsoon season.
This is their only alternative to walking more than 5 km to reach the other side using a permanent bridge down the river.
Residents of Kauna and nearby gram panchayats in Thural tehsil say they are forced to build a wood-and-iron bridge every year. “Most people here have to cross the river on a daily basis for one reason or other. The markets, government offices, the degree college and healthcare institutions are all located in Thural on the other side of the river. In the absence of a temporary bridge, it gets especially challenging for students and patients,” said Sanjay Awasthi, a local resident.
He further said, “The situation affects around 15,000 people from five gram panchayats on this side of the river. There have been incidents of students being molested while taking the longer route due to the presence of some anti-social elements. Once, my relatives were robbed on that route as well.”
Another resident, Raj Kumar, said that for sick persons and pregnant women, reaching the hospital in Thural is sometimes a challenge. There are only 2-3 buses plying the longer route while private taxis charge Rs 100-200. “Therefore, we are forced to use this shortcut. People here have to spend around Rs 25,000 to 30,000 rupees every year and a hard day’s labour to construct the bridge. But it stays functional for not more than 8 to 9 months in a year and is only connected by pedestrian walkways,” he added.
Residents said a budgetary provision for the construction of the bridge linking Thural Naun to Gharthun Kauna was passed by the previous government, but there is no headway in the project.
An engineer from Bhawarna sub-division of the state public works department said he is aware of the long-pending demand of the residents and ‘flood data’ from the river has already been prepared and sent to higher authorities. “Funds for construction of the bridge may be provided by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD),” he said. However, executive engineer Munish Sehgal said that until now, no such proposal has been passed by the state government.
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