Along a remote area in Uttarakhand’s Pauri district, a road is taking shape — snaking its way through the undulating terrain of the mountainous area that is home to more than 15,000 people.
It is a road dreamt of and carved out by people from around 40 villages in the Maniyarsuen area, about 200 km from state capital Dehradun, who took up the task after the government failed to provide surface communication even 16 years after the state was formed.
On Wednesday, men, women and even children started cutting earth and shoveling dirt and rock to clear a stretch of a 3-km road that will connect the villages to a state highway — and to the nearest township in Ghandiyal.
The villagers’ efforts mirrors the legendary tale of Bihar’s ‘mountain man’ who had cut through rocks with a chisel and hammer to make a way from his village, where his wife died due to lack of medical care.
His Herculean effort has also been immortalised in a Bollywood film.
Dinesh Rawat, president of an organisation spearheading the road-laying effort in Pauri, said the villagers’ patience ran out after the government failed to construct three different roads it had approved from time to time.
All these years, people had to walk through mountain tracks to reach the highway and then the public health centre at Ghandiyal.
The people’s effort begun earlier when they levelled a 3.5-km stretch to make a motorable road, Rawat said, adding the new stretch will finally connect the area to the highway.
Rawat said the villagers are contributing from their own pockets to lay the dirt track, which they plan to macadamise if the government fails to act even now.
Villagers said they have raised around Rs 2 lakh to deploy an earth-moving machine.
“We would try to accomplish the task by March 8 to dedicate this road to the women of the area on the occasion of International’s Women Day,” Rawat added. A Delhi-based organisation of local residents settled in the national capital is also helping with money and manpower for the road.
PWD official Nirbhay Singh said survey works for the three sanctioned roads have been completed and road laying is likely to begin soon.
Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000 with the aim of ensuring development in the hills, which comprise 88% of the state’s geographical area.
Nine of the state’s 13 districts are completely in the hills while two are partially hilly.
According to official data, around 35 lakh out of the 1.1-crore population live in the hills.
However, the hill districts have fallen behind on the development index with activists saying that successive governments failed to make policies focusing on the hills.