Damned rural roads in hills of Uttarakhand

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Damned rural roads in hills of Uttarakhand

Wednesday, 24 May 2023 | Seema Mehta

Damned rural roads in hills of Uttarakhand

Gram Pradhan Sadak Yojana has improved rural connectivity. However, it is equally crucial to maintain, renovate and rebuild these roads over time 

During 2017-2018, Uttarakhand ranked as the best state under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) for constructing the highest number of roads. The state successfully built 1839 km of roads, surpassing the target of 1500 km set for that year. This scheme was initiated in India in 2000 to enhance connectivity in rural areas as a part of poverty reduction. It has effectively reached remote and inaccessible regions, including the village of Pothing in Kapkot block, Bageshwar, Uttarakhand. However, it has been over 15 years since the road was constructed in 2007, and it is now deteriorating, causing difficulties for the locals.

Pothing is located 10 km from the sub-district headquarters Kapkot and it takes over an hour to enter the boundary of the village traversing the narrow-broken road which was once built under PMGSY. The road is flanked by a dense jungle on one side and a gorge leading to a stream, locally known as Belang on the other. During Monsoon, which is quite extreme in this Himalayan state, waterfalls in the jungle become active, cascading into the stream, causing slippery routes, intermittent breakages and an increase in the water level of the stream. As it is the only route to reach the village, the villagers find themselves bereft of alternatives. Pooja Gadiya, a teenager from the village, faces a challenging daily journey of 17 km from her house to school as there are very few vehicles on her route to school. During the rainy season, there are no vehicles available, making her commute even more difficult. “To navigate the unsafe road, we have no choice but to carry our school bags on our heads and hold our slippers in our hands. The unpaved path becomes extremely slippery when it rains, posing a constant risk of falling into the gorge. The situation is so severe that the school often declares holidays during the rainy season to prioritize students’ safety,” Pooja expressed.

Many families in this village have migrated to cities for better education and facilities, leaving those who cannot afford it with no choice but to accept the harsh reality. While students face daily challenges getting to school, villagers struggle to access services and livelihood opportunities.

Dhyat Singh, a driver by profession, on the other hand, expressed his challenges to carry out his job due to this poorly maintained road. “I became a driver as there is no source of employment here in this village. But this terrible road condition makes driving difficult and impacts my earnings, as the cost of car servicing exceeds my income,” Dhyat pointed out. According to him, rainy days pose the greatest danger, with the road becoming slippery. A small mistake could result in vehicles sliding into the adjacent gorge. Dhyat believes that improving the road to Pothing would solve the villagers' major problem and lead to development. Acknowledging the issue, Pushpa Devi, the Pradhan of the village has also gone to the tehsil several times to raise the concerns but to no avail. “We have gone to Tehsil several times and raised our concerns  but no officer has taken it seriously,” she lamented.

The implementation of Gram Pradhan Sadak Yojana has certainly improved rural accessibility and connectivity. However, it is equally crucial to maintain, renovate and rebuild these roads over time, especially in such tough geographies with extreme weather conditions. Regular assessments should be conducted by the concerned officials and identify areas that need immediate attention, followed by allocating funds and resources for maintenance and repairs. These roads reached our hill communities after decades of wait, now that we have them, they should be functional and not just a tokenism of development!

(Writer is a  studying in Pothing village in Kapkot block of Bageshwar, Uttarakhand)

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