January 18th, 2015
Here’s a riddle for you: How do you make an entire bridge disappear? Answer: By asking our politicians to build one.
Puzzled? So were the residents of Khajur Kho village of Jhabua district, Madhya Pradesh, where a river bridge constructed by state public works department (PWD) has mysteriously gone ‘missing’.
The situation runs a close parallel to the movie ‘Well done Abba’ where villagers file an FIR to get back a missing well that had been constructed by the government; only here, it was an RTI that was filed to trace the structure. Unsurprisingly, it was made only on paper. Funds allocated for the construction were also paid to a fictitious contractor.
People of the village have to cross the river to reach anywhere, including markets and schools. During the monsoon, they remain cut off from the rest of the world. Persistent demands for a bridge forced the state government to approve construction and allot money in 2010.
Indore-based activist Rajendra K. Gupta filed an RTI, which revealed that for two consecutive years around Rs 5 lakh, meant for the bridge, lapsed and eventually PWD officials siphoned it off by showing the bridge constructed in documents. Following the query and a complaint, the government has ordered an inquiry through development commissioner of Madhya Pradesh. Kamal Singh, a resident of Khajur Kho village, said that following years of requests, the government had finally approved the bridge but now things are suspended midway. “Children are still crossing the river to reach school. Perhaps they are destined to learn the hard way,” he said.
It is a shame that even in this digital age, corrupt employees get away with such blatant negligence. As informed citizens, it is upon us to be generally aware of the developments around our locality, in order to exercise our rights and keep a check on similar incidents.