From 0% electrification to scarcity of water, from no roads to hospitals, so many villages across the nation are suffering from lack of facilities in the household and in the vicinity. Politicians on TV channels claim that they would do anything to transform villages but on the ground level, it is not the same.
The villagers don’t even have a proper bridge across the river these scenarios angered fellow villager Gangadhar Rout, a retired livestock inspector in Odisha village.
While the Salandi in Odisha’s Keonjhar district is known to be a lifeline for so many farmers living on its well-irrigated banks, the lack of a bridge forced residents of Kanpur village like Gangadhar Rout to row across the water or to walk for hours to reach the destination.
Rout also saw farmers taking long detours on foot to reach their farmlands on the other side of the river.
However, days of delving into disappointment are gone as Rout, the retired man has been firmly dipping into his retirement money to build a 270 foot-long bridge in a bid to connect his village Kanpur to Daneipur across the river.
Unfortunately, for more than a decade, Rout and Kanpur’s villagers had been requesting the state government to build the bridge, but nobody came at the need of the hour as they continued to make do with a temporary bamboo bridge.
Then, a local truck owners’ association and the local MLA invested Rs 3 lakh each to build a proper structure but sadly, it could not be completed. 10 years passed and there was no development since then. So, Rout made up his mind and decided to finish the bridge on his own.
“I thought that if I don’t build it, no one else will,” he said. “My nephew and I had surveyed several bridges in the area to get a good idea and after buying cement, bricks and iron rods, I started in October 2016.”
Those days, Rout thought he could manage to build bridge within Rs 6 lakh itself. But by the time he erected pillars across the river, he learnt that he had already spent around Rs 10 lakh.
“I almost ran out of money. Luckily, I did not have any small children in my family to look after, so I could spend without thinking much,” he said.
The bridge is even now not complete as it needs seven spans. But Rout is still confident that he can complete the construction once he receives his pension arrears from the government in the next few months.
“With God’s blessings, I hope to complete it within the next two months. I will dedicate it to the memory of two legends of our village, the late Parabasi Rout and the late Pranabandhu Behera. I don’t have much need for money. My two sons are well-settled in life and my daughter is married. I have very few needs,” he said.
Keonjhar district collector named Ashish Thakre assured that the government will help to build approach roads linking to the bridge for the vehicles that Kanpur’s villagers are keen to acquire.
“I did not know about his (Rout’s) efforts. He is indeed a role model for the people of the district,” said Thakre. Villagers hailed Rout as the village hero. “Had he not started building the bridge, it would probably never have been done,” said a villager.
Rout also says he did not receive much assistance from the people of his village at the need of the hour. So, it is a one-man show. “No one came to work, despite my request. They probably thought I would run away with all the fame,” he said.