Mau Town, Chitrakoot. In the heat of mid May, after protesting for a week, residents of Mau were addressed directly by District Magistrate Neelam Ahlawat. 60 shanties of Mau had been on strike regarding the incomplete construction of a bridge to be built over the Yamuna river. After all the reassurances notwithstanding, a slow trickle of labour drifts around the worksite, and locals have little hope that construction will be completed anytime soon.
‘We want the authorities to take note of our plight and at least build a makeshift cask bridge till the time the R.C.C. bridge is under construction,’ Awdhesh, one of the residents who participated in the protest, explained why a makeshift bridge over the Yamuna at this point is the need of the hour. ‘Every year, water level in the river rises during the monsoon and the small boats that ply between Kaushambi and Chitrakoot stop for over 2 months. The water is too deep. This is when a simple 12 kilometre stretch becomes an 80-kilometre trip around Chitrakoot. Can you imagine what the added cost means for rural poor? At least the makeshift bridge will solve part of the problem.’ Another reason why several people in this area are getting impatient to have the bridge completed and functional is its strategic location. The bridge, when functional, will reduce the distance between Mau (in Chitrakoot) and Kanpur by almost 80 kilometres. Kanpur, being one of the most important industrial centres near Bundelkhand, is central to many businesses in the area. Currently, most businessmen are forced to take a circuitous route to Sarai Aqeel and then go to Kanpur, or alternatively, first go to Chitrakoot and take a train to Kanpur.
‘With temperatures rising and hot winds blowing, it is impossible to cross this stretch on foot. The sand from the river bed heats to unbearably high temperatures,’ said Abhishek Dwivedi, another local. The order to build an R.C.C. bridge over the Yamuna river had been passed by former Chief Minister Mayawati. According to the order this bridge was to be completed by May 2015. The District Magistrate said that a sum of 500 crore rupees was also passed in March 2011 for the construction of this bridge, which started well in time in November 2011 under the Kaushambi Bridge Corporation. However, the bridge hasn’t been completed yet. Locals have complained about this to the concerned department time and again. The authorities at the Department usually give the excuse of a ‘lack of budget’ or blame it on the rains.
This is not the first instance when people have brought the sluggish pace of construction to the notice of the authorities. Earlier this year in February, hundreds of people from the shanties along this section of the river had appealed to the District Magistrate. The only action that was taken was the transfer of responsibility for the construction from the Kaushambi Bridge Corporation to Banda Bridge Corporation. This had no impact on the construction of the bridge.
Mau Tehsildar, Katvaru Ram, suggests that the people should talk to the authorities of the Banda Bridge Corporation. ‘The construction now falls under that Department’s purview and the locals should be approaching them with their application. We can try and push their request on our part,’ he said. Chitrakoot District Magistrate Neelam Ahlawat addressed the people on 19 May and assured them that action would be taken soon. Bringing the hunger strike to an end, she told the protestors, ‘We are sending the UP Government an official request to intervene and try and get the construction of the R.C.C. bridge completed in a year. 500 crore rupees is not going to be sufficient to build the entire bridge. In the meantime, the administration will try and build a makeshift bridge over the two-kilometre stretch here to make travel easier for people during the monsoon.’
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