­­The bridge on the river Kaljani

­­The bridge on the river Kaljani

Have you walked 20 km to attend school? Or visited a neighbouring district only by foot? It might be beyond imagination for people like you and me, living the urban life, for whom hailing a cab comes as naturally as blinking. But for the majority of the population in rural India it’s a hardcore reality. Poor road conditions, lack of transportation facilities, missing infrastructure…you name it and they face it. “We used to walk 20 km daily to reach our agricultural lands for farming. Sometimes the sheer thought of the fatigue deterred us from going, which meant no work, and thus ended up having no food on our plates for the day…” Pranab Barman, one of the villagers of Barmanpara (Ambari gram panchayat) in Coochbehar district, said during a conversation with Team Goonj.

Due to lack of facilities in Barmanpara, the villagers had to go to the neighbouring district, Alipurduar, for work and also to buy things for daily use. “A local boat had capsized in Kaljani river and 12 people had died. After that incident, the villagers have stopped traveling by boat,” Minati Manna, another Barmanpara villager, said.

Following conversations with the villagers, Team Goonj motivated the community members to build a bamboo bridge on river Kaljani to make travel a little easier for them. Followed by the discussion, a group of 99 enthusiastic villagers built a 350-metre-long bamboo bridge under Goonj’s ‘Dignity For Work’ initiative. After a month of hard work, the bridge was completed and the incredible work and efforts of the residents were awarded with Goonj kits of essentials.

For the maintenance of the bridge and also to raise money for a new one, the villagers have decided to collect a minimal amount from the users on a daily basis. “We are extremely happy. This bridge has made the travel to the other district very convenient now. It makes our life so much easier…” Sharmila Gayen, a villager of Barmanpara, remarked with child-like excitement.

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