By Mamata Sahu
Bhanu Baagh, 30, had gone into labour when her husband decided she needed attention from doctors at the nearest town Burla.
Problem was, the main road connecting Dengimacha and three other villages to the town was impassable, little more than a slush pile.
Heavy vehicles from the nearby factories churned up the dirt track. When it rained, there was little to distinguish the road from the river Mahanadi that brought water to Dengimacha village.
Baagh’s husband decided to take the long route to town, a road that doubled the distance to be covered.
Around 5000 people of four villages, (Budakata, Dengimacha, Sahajbahal, Silipathar) depend on this 2 K.M. canal road, at the Dengimacha village of Sambalpur, which has not been repaired for the last 6 years. This old, bumpy, muddy, cratered dirt road is the main route that connects the village to the cities in Sambalpur and it comes under the Irrigation Department of the district.
There are some 54,313 villages in Odisha according to Census 2011. The New Indian Express reported that as many as 11,204 of these do not have an all-weather road.
People from these villages have had to face the brunt of getting delayed in their daily commute as well as in emergencies. No buses brave the road and villagers are obliged to personal vehicles.
“I fell down as my vehicle slipped off on this road and my right leg was injured. In the rain, this road becomes highly dangerous,” P. Ram Rao, a resident of Silipathar village, said.
Money has been allocated by the Odisha state government in 2015 and 2020 to repair this road, but it has continued to be in a bad state. The condition of the road is made worse by trucks from nearby factories, which use the road daily. It got so bad that the Superintending Engineer of Sambalpur Irrigation Division, Sambalpur, in charge of the road was forced to make a police complaint in 2020.
The so-called Canal road is owned by the Irrigation department of the state government. “In 2021, whatever amount comes from the government, we will repair that road,” Pramod Kumar Panda, the Superintending Engineer of the Irrigation Department said.
According to the villagers, whichever party forms the government, has no effect on the poor condition of the road and thus their fates. Dharnidhar Pradhan, a resident of Dengimacha, said, “It’s been 45 years, I have been witnessing the canal road problem in our village.”
The building of some 4000 km of rural roads is targeted under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Besides this, the state government says it plans to invest Rs 2,296 crores under the road development program with a target to make 1000 km of road for the financial year of 2020-2021, including 30 bridges and two rail overbridges.
Sambalpur’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s MLA from the Rengali constituency, Nauri Nayak said, “I will raise this issue in Vidhan Sabha. I got 3 crores through the MLA fund, but it was impossible to provide the entire 3 crores to a single issue. We have various kinds of issues in our Sambalpur. I’ll look into this matter.”