BHAWANIPATNA: Construction of a bridge over Gola river in Podapadar panchayat of Kalahandi district has emerged as a key issue in the forthcoming elections for a number of villages cut off by water from all sides.
Around 16 villages were cut off from the mainland in 1985 when the Indravati reservoir water submerged all landmasses around the panchayat, leaving villagers, mostly tribals, water-locked. Though the villagers were provided with rehabilitation and compensation packages, they preferred to stay at their ancestral places. Country boats are the only mode of transportation to cross the river.
“In the last 34 years, deaths have occurred due to the outbreak of diseases and boat mishaps, besides routine inconveniences. A bridge connecting our villages with the mainland remains a distant dream,” said a villager of Tentulipada inside the reservoir.
However, there was some sign of development when 440 BPL households in all the 16 villages were covered with electrification under the Revised Long Term Action Plan (RLTAP) on November 16, 2016. Later, the district administration proposed to construct a bridge over the river near D Cheptaghat with an estimated cost of Rs 5.88 crore, but tender for the work is yet to be floated.
The water-locked villages are K Cheptaghat, Tentulipada, Ghutrukhal, Jhirigaon, Bhiterdunga, Litimaska, Podapadar, Temra, Uperpanga, Kalati, Karwadi, Sarpas, Tal Temra, Tal Gunjmali, Uppar Gunjamali and Podipadar.
“Political parties find 1,500 votes in 16 villages surrounded by Indravati reservoir too small, which is probably why the demand for a bridge connecting them with the mainland has never been taken up seriously after the last elections. On the other hand, villagers hardly cast their votes and very low turnout was recorded in the last General Elections,” said a villager.
But this time, the district administration has made special arrangement to sensitise voters to exercise their franchise.
Kalahandi Collector and Returning Officer Parag Harsad Gavali said awareness drives were carried out in these villages to increase the voter turnout. At least 1,376 voters will cast their votes in Ghutrukhal and Bhiterdungi booths located inside the reservoir. While Ghutrukhal booth has 1,117 voters, Bhiterdunga has only 259 voters. Polling officials will proceed from D Cheptaghat on the boats to Talnagi and from there, they will move to their booths by walk or bike, he informed.