Odisha man builds bridge across river with his pension money
For much of his life, the lack of a bridge across the river near his village rankled Gangadhar Rout, a retired livestock inspector. While the Salandi in Odisha’s Keonjhar district is a lifeline for many farmers living on its well-irrigated banks, the lack of a bridge forced residents of Kanpur village like Rout to tediously row across the water or to take long detours on foot to get to their farmlands on the other side of the river.
Thanks to Rout’s dogged determination, that inconvenience may soon be a thing of the past. Since last year, the retired man has been dipping into his retirement kitty to build a 270 foot-long bridge to connect his village Kanpur to Daneipur across the river.
For more than a decade, Rout and Kanpur’s 1200-odd villagers had been requesting the state government to build the bridge, but no help came and they continued to make do with a temporary bamboo bridge. Then, a local truck owners’ association and the local MLA chipped in with Rs 3 lakh each to build a proper structure but it could not be completed. A decade passed and the sight of the unfinished bridge hurt Rout so much that he decided to complete the structure on his own.
“I thought that if I don’t build it, no one else will,” he said. “My nephew and I had surveyed several bridges in the area to get a good idea and after buying cement, bricks and iron rods, I started in October 2016.”
At the time, Rout thought he could complete the bridge within Rs 6 lakh. But by the time he had erected pillars across the river, he found he had already spent around Rs 10 lakh. “I almost ran out of money. Luckily, I did not have any small children in my family to look after, so I could spend without thinking much,” he said.
The bridge is still incomplete as it needs seven spans. But Rout is confident that he can finish the construction once he receives his pension arrears from the government in the next few months. “With God’s blessings, I hope to complete it within the next two months. I will dedicate it to the memory of two legends of our village, the late Parabasi Rout and the late Pranabandhu Behera. I don’t have much need of money. My two sons are well-settled in life and my daughter is married. I have very few needs,” he said.
Keonjhar district collector, Ashish Thakre, said that the government will help to build approach roads to the bridge for the vehicles that Kanpur’s villagers are keen to acquire.
“I did not know about his (Rout’s) efforts. He is indeed a role model for the people of the district,” said Thakre. Villagers hailed Rout as the village hero. “Had he not started building the bridge, it would probably never have been done,” said a villager.
However, the retired livestock inspector says he did not receive much help from the people of his village, when he needed it. “No one came to work, despite my request. They probably thought I would run away with all the fame,” he said.