Report by Kishor Dash; Bhubaneswar: The construction of the 910 meter bridge on River Gurupriya, a long-cherished dream of the tribal inhabitants of the cut-off region, on the other side of the Chitrakonda reservoir in Malkangiri district of Odisha is underway amid the hawk eye vigil of the Border Security Forces deployed there. Even though the foundation stones of the bridge were laid in 1982 by the then chief minister J B Patnaik and again in 2000 by Naveen Pattnaik, but the construction work could not be taken up for several years due to Maoist fear. Though the government wanted to construct the bridge to help the local people since then, it could not go ahead with the work for around last 15 years due to strong opposition by the Maoists.
The state government had invited tenders for at least eight times for construction of the bridge since then, but not a single company showed any interest in the project due to the Naxal menace till 2014 when the Kolkota based Royal Infraconstru Ltd participated in the tender process and agreed to construct the bridge after the government assured to provide BSF security cover to the company people at the worksite.
The State Government had awarded the tender to Gamon India Limited for construction of the proposed bridge in 2006. However, the company withdrew from the project before undertaking any construction work following frequent Maoist threats and attacks. Though Gammon India had taken up the construction work, it had to leave midway after its temporary camp was blown away by the Maoists. Earlier, the Government also had approached the State-run Odisha Bridge Construction Corporation (OBCC) and even the Border Road Organisation (BRO) of the Defence Ministry, but they too expressed reluctance to take up the project.After Gamon’s exit, the Government floated tender as many as eight times, but there were no takers for it solely due to the Maoist threat. Mean while, the estimated cost of the bridge, which was Rs 4 crore in 1982, has now gone up to Rs 172 crore.
However, at last, after getting the approval of the Home Department, the Government entrusted the construction work to the Kolkata-based Royal Infra Constru Ltd, which began the work in 2014 with the deployment of Border Security Forces at both the ends of the bridge. To ensure uninterrupted construction of the bridge, the state government has deployed BSF personnel, who have set up five camps between Chitrakonda and Janbai. The 910-metre-long bridge will connect around 154 villages with a population of about 30,000 spread over seven panchayats in the cut-off area to the mainland once comes up.
The geographical location of this cutoff area in the district, which borders Andhra Pradesh with dense forest cover, has facilitated the Maoists to use it as a safe haven over the years . The presence of the ultras and the absence of road communication have made it a tough task for the administration to carry out development projects in the area, popularly referred to as the ‘cutoff area’.
We are getting the full cooperation of the local villagers and Border Security Forces deployed there .it is because of their round the clock vigil ,the construction work of the Gurupriya bridge is underway uninterrupted at full pace and nearing completion with the stipulated time,said Project Manager Niranjan Kumar to this paper.
We are committed to the responsibility of nation building process as entrusted to us by the state government while closely monitoring the security scenario at the construction site, said a BSF official who is looking after the security arrangement at Janbai to this paper.Had the state government put such security arrangement in place for construction of the bridge 30 years ago, we would have seen the movement of vehicles in our area by now,” Sibaram Pangi of Panasput village.Thank God, the work has finally begun and nearing completion, he added.
(The author is the senior editor of www.orissadiary.com and can be reached at [email protected])