Can Bridges on Brahmaputra Help Win Assam Elections?
Ground Report: Bridges play a vital role of connectivity & prosperity in Assam and is used as a tool to win votes.
Camera: Tridip Mandal
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
‘‘It was an initiative by the Modi government.’’Monoroma Barua, Homemaker
We met Monoroma Barua while travelling on a bus on the Bogibeel bridge. She was on her way back from Jorhat to North Lakhimpur.
Like Monoroma, most people seem to have forgotten that this bridge was part of the Assam accord signed in 1985, and its foundation stone was laid by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda.
However, what they clearly remember is Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the bridge on Christmas Eve 2018. So, they credit him for the Bogibeel bridge.
Bogibeel, the longest rail-cum-road bridge in Assam, took 200 months to complete and over the years, various political parties have claimed that they were responsible for building it.
‘‘The Modi government has made the bridge. The work was very slow under the Congress government. After that, Modi took over and the bridge was completed quickly.’’Pramod Medak, Businessman
Bridges to Connect With Voters
People living in the Dhemaji area on the northern bank of Brahmaputra saw their lives drastically change for the better after the Bogibeel bridge became operational.
Distances became short and travelling took less time. More so, the bridge brought along economic prosperity.
‘‘This area has seen a lot of development after the bridge. Even if people don’t own land, they can earn a living by doing some business. Earlier, no one came to purchase property here. Now, the plots here are worth crores.’’Madhav Deori, Resident, Silapathar
However, the biggest advantage has been the accessibility to health and education facilities, for which the residents had to travel long distances all these years.
‘‘I am from North Lakhimpur. Earlier, I had to travel by bus throughout the night. It would be a big problem if someone fell sick. Now, I can get patients treated at the Dibrugarh Medical College in a single day. Earlier, it would take us 2-3 days.’’Monoroma Barua, Homemaker
Promise Bridges, Get Votes
In a similar instance, the people of Majuli have been waiting for a bridge for decades – a bridge that will connect their river island to Nemati Ghat on the southern bank of Brahmaputra.
‘‘During the rainy season when the water level rises ferry services stop. The ferry doesn’t operate at night. According to IWT rules, ferries cannot be operated on the Brahmaputra after 4 pm. Boat rides may sound adventurous, but at times, they throw up challenges.’’Bedabrata Bharali, Businessman
On 27 February 2016, just days before the Assembly elections in which Sarbananda Sonowal won from Majuli, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone of this long-awaited bridge.
When The Quint visited the site on 20 March 2021, it found that no work on the bridge had been done over the last five years. Just few days before the announcement of the Assembly elections in Assam, PM Modi, in a groundbreaking ceremony, indicated the beginning of the bridge’s construction. And it has sent just the right signals to the voters of Majuli.
We met Bedabrata Bharali onboard the ferry to Nemati Ghat. He was travelling with his little daughter. Born in Majuli, he now runs his business from Jorhat. In the 80s, he has seen days when there were just two ferries which connected Majuli to the mainland.
Although the frequency of ferries is much better now, the problems persist.
‘‘Whenever there is a medical emergency and we are referred to the Jorhat hospital, it takes at least 1-2 hours to reach there. We wish we could have reached the hospital in 10 minutes.’’Bedabrata Bharali, Businessman
Locals told The Quint that the land for the bridge is being acquired in Majuli and the work has begun.
‘‘The current BJP government is concerned about the people. I am convinced, we’ll get a bridge. The work has also started.’’Prabhat Bora Burabhokot, Priest, Kamlabari Satra
The voters of Majuli have seen many an election where the bridge was promised and then was conveniently forgotten after the polls. After the ceremony by the Prime Minister on 18 February, the bridge finally seems like a reality.
However, they don’t want it to be a bait for their votes.
‘‘It will be foolish to think that we shall get a bridge if we vote for a certain party. We are citizens of a democratic country. Nobody is doing a favour by building the bridge in Majuli. It is rightfully ours; it is our right. So, we need a bridge.’’Bedabrata Bharali, Businessman
Just before the announcement of the Assam Assembly elections the Prime Minister also laid the foundation stone of Dhubri-Phulbari Bridge.
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