The delay in the construction of long-pending bridge on the Bhaga river has been causing inconvenience to villagers, in particular farmers, of Yangla in the tribal district of Lahaul Spiti.
The bridge was proposed to connect the village to the main road, a distance of 7 km between them, to facilitate farmers to transport their produce to market. They suspect a political conspiracy in the delay. It was during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule in 1999 that the foundation stone of the bridge was laid by then Lahaul Spiti MLA Ram Lal Markenda.
"Potato and peas are our main cash crops but due to the absence of connecting road we fail to send our produce to markets timely, incurring us losses," Punam Devi, a villager told Hindustan Times. Another villager Prem Singh said, "We carry the agricultural produce on mules, whose owners charge Rs 100 per quintal." The hefty transportation cost had shattered the economy of villagers, he said, adding that "we demand from the Himachal Pradesh government to understand the plight of villagers."
Villagers alleged that the government sanctioned money for the Nalda bridge and other places in the district, but there was no mention of the bridge on the Bhaga river.
Gondhla panchayat, under which the village of 35 families falls, 'pradhan' Ramesh Kumar said, "We had met the authorities concerned over the issue but in vain." He added that villagers sought Lahaul Spiti legislator Ravi Thakur's intervention and asked public works department (PWD) officials to construct the bridge in time.
PWD executive engineer (XEN) Himanshu Bisht said, "The department had awarded the work of construction last year but the contractor failed to honour the contract. So the authorities cancelled the tender. Now, the work will be awarded again shortly." He said the site of the bridge was forest land, resulting in the delay in the construction.
"The department has submitted all documents regarding forest land clearance and soon they will be cleared. The construction of the bridge will be started," Bisht added.