When Government Turned Deaf, Haryana Villagers
Ignored by governments, Haryana villagers crowdfund Rs 1 crore bridge
CHANDIGARH: You don't always need a Dashrath Manjhi to single-handedly cut through a mountain and build you a road. As residents of nine villages in Haryana's Sirsa district have shown, all you need is strong collective will to cut through a mountain of red tape.
When politicians and bureaucrats ignored their requests to build them a bridge over Ghaggar river so that they could reach Sirsa town with their farm produce faster, the villagers teamed up and collected Rs 1 crore. With it, they have funded a 250-foot-long, 14-foot-wide bridge connecting Aleeka and Panihari villages to Sirsa.
Manjhi was a poor farmhand in Bihar's Gaya district who single-handedly chiselled out a road through a 300-foot-high mountain using just a hammer and chisel. He went at the stubborn rock for 22 years starting in 1960 until he was recognized as India's Mountain Man for connecting his Gehlour village to neighbouring villages in 1982.
The Sirsa villagers had not heard of Manjhi, but knew one thing - they did not want to wait for Superman to emerge one day and end their woes. Work on the bridge started in April 2014. Today, it is near completion and the 25-member committee which is supervising the construction has requested local saint, Mahant Brahm Dass, to inaugurate it.
Once completed, the bridge will be a lifeline for 1.25 lakh people as it will cut the distance from their villages to Sirsa town by at least 30km. They will also get easier access to markets in Punjab for their farm produce.
"We have no place for politicians or bureaucrats in our list of invitees for the bridge's inauguration," says Hardev Singh of Panihari village. "For us, a labourer who contributed Rs 500 and a widow who contributed her pension of Rs 1,000 are more important than those who fooled us for more than three decades.''
"From Devi Lal to current chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, we had represented our case to all. Except for Sirsa MP Charanjit Singh Rori and former minister Gopal Kanda who contributed Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5.51 lakh respectively from their personal funds no one even bothered to look at us," added Singh.
Major Singh, a resident of Aleeka village, said, "While on a visit to Rajasthan, Hardev Singh came across an engineer in Hanumangarh who was supervising construction of a government bridge. After inquiring about the cost he discussed the idea of building our own bridge with the villagers. Brahm Dass ji laid the foundation. Initially, Panihari and Aleeka villages came together and later a cluster of seven villages joined hands."
The other villages include Bujhkaramgarh, Farwai Khurd, Dhani Kahan Singh, Sikanderpur Rasoolpur, Thedi, Theeral and Bheema.s
Hardev adds, "None of the politicians, official machinery and local officers has even bothered to visit the spot."