SAMBALPUR: Villagers of Kud Gunderpur, an island located inside river Mahanadi in Dhankauda block under Rengali Assembly constituency, continue to suffer in the absence of communication facilities. Their demand for a bridge to the mainland has been going on unheard for a decade now.
The island measuring seven km long and two km wide comes under Kud-Gunderpur gram panchayat. The panchayat comprises six villages of Kud Gunderpur, Kud Mohoda, Kud Tabda, Kud Jampali, Kud Amlipali and Kud Padkhai.
The villagers of Kud Gunderpur depend on country boats to come to the mainland. They also use these boats to take serious patients and pregnant women to VSS Medical, which is 15 km away. During monsoon, the island remains cut off from the outer world.
Situated barely 35 km from the district headquarters of Sambalpur, the panchayat has a population of over 10,000. During elections, every time the candidates visit them seeking votes, the villagers demand a bridge to the mainland. Though some candidates took initiative, lack of political will left them high and dry.
According to reports, the Rural Development Department had floated tenders on at least 10 occasions between 2006-07 and 2013-14 for construction of the 450 metre long bridge over river Mahanadi connecting Tulundi with Kud Gunderpur. But there has been no response. And the buck stops there with no effort by the administration to ascertain the cause of lack of response to the tender.
People in the panchayat depend on agriculture to eke out living. As many as 16 lift irrigation projects are functional here and there is no dearth of water for irrigation. Yet, the farmers continue to suffer as they are unable to sell their produce in the urban markets which could fetch then good money. In the absence of a bridge which could facilitate their movement to the district headquarters town, they are forced to sell their produce to middlemen at lower rates.
In a bid to put pressure on the Government, the villagers have formed Kud Gunderpur Sangram Samiti (KGSS). On Monday, the villagers led by president of KGSS, Soumitri Padhi, came to the grievance cell of the Collector and handed over a memorandum demanding immediate construction of the bridge.
Padhi said even though financial allocation has already been made for construction of the bridge, it was yet to be constructed. He also warned that if no concrete step is taken within 15 days, he would launch hunger strike in front of the Collector’s office.
Executive Engineer of Rural Development Department, Sambalpur, Parsuram Dehury said a fresh tender was floated on July 10 for construction of the bridge at an estimated cost of `19.15 crore. He added that they were not getting response from any contractors as the water level of the river, where the bridge would be constructed, stands at about 20 feet even during the summer.