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Posted at: Jul 6, 2018, 2:04 AM; last updated: Jul 6, 2018, 2:04 AM (IST)

40 years on, a bridge too far

Residents of Shekhupura village use inflated rubber tubes to cross Ghaggar

Fact file

  • No bridge to cross the river for 40 years
  • Villagers cover a distance of 300 ft to cross the river
  • More than 500 residents have been affected
40 years on, a bridge too far
Shekhupura villagers use inflated rubber tubes to cross the Ghaggar on Thursday. Tribune photos: Rajesh Sachar

Karam Prakash

Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 5

Residents, including women and schoolchildren, of a village in Devigarh block of Patiala district are risking their lives every day as they have to cross the Ghaggar — either on foot or by using inflated rubber tubes — to reach their fields. 

At least seven persons have died while crossing the river in the past five years. Villagers have been urging the authorities to construct a bridge to end their 40-year-long ordeal. 

Distressed villagers had put up temporary wooden planks several times to cross the river, but they never lasted long. In the absence of a bridge, residents of other nearby villages — Shekhupura, Badla, Badli, and Bangran — have to travel extra 5 km via Devigarh to reach the other side of the river for their daily chores. 

Baldev Gir (45), a resident of Shekhupura village, said: “Every politician of the area, including Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, has promised to get a bridge constructed, but in vain.”

During the rainy season, some of the villagers even use inflated tubes to cross the river to reach their agricultural fields.

Ghaggar originates from the Shivaliks of Himachal Pradesh and flows down through Punjab and Haryana into Rajasthan. It swells with rainwater during the monsoon; otherwise, it remains full of industrial effluents.

According to the locals, the river never runs dry, however, during summers, the water level is low enough, and villagers can slowly walk through it in groups. Villagers said they had repeatedly drawn the attention of the incumbent local MLA Harinder Pal Singh Chandumajra to the problem, but not much has been done in this regard. Shekhupura village Sarpanch Baljeet Bharti said: “Around Rs 3 lakh was allotted for the bridge under the NREGA scheme, but the amount remains unutilised as the department concerned has refused to build the bridge citing insufficient funds. Harinderpal Chandumajra had provided cement pipes for the construction of the bridge.”

Meanwhile, MLA Chandumajra said: “I bought the cement pipes for the construction of a bridge using the rural development fund in 2016, but the Congress government has removed the project from the NREGA scheme. I have also sent a report on Rs 10-crore bridge project — for Shekhupura and several other villages — to the government.” 

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