This remote village balances itself on the edge

Villagers of Nooji Halabe in Manchi grama at Bantwal using a temporary bridge made of bamboo. The old bridge was collapsed on Tuesday September 03, 2018 due to heavy rain. Photo/Janardhan BK

Nearly a month after a walkway bridge collapsed during heavy rain, residents of Nuji Alabe do a balancing act every time they cross a 10-foot-deep channel, on trunks of arecanut trees tied together.

For more than 150 residents of the village under Manchi Gram Panchayat, the survey by PWD engineers and people’s representatives has not come as a huge relief.

“All of them (officials and leaders) knew about the poor condition of the walkway. For the last 10 years, we have been requesting them to construct a strong bridge where we can take bikes. Nobody has taken us seriously,” said Sridhara Prabhu.

Main road junction

The main road junction at Manchi is four km away and the residents are dependent on shops and the primary health care centre there. Prabhu is worried about taking his mother, 80-year-old Srimatiyappa, to the hospital.

Bed-ridden for months due to age-related weakness, the old woman greets visitors in chaste Tulu and tries to speak with a lot of effort.

‘Bridge gets submerged’

“The bridge gets submerged under water every time there is good rain. We hope we won’t get any rain in the coming days. Taking her to the hospital is a risky business now,” Prabhu said.

Shivashankar Nayak, another resident who drives an autorickshaw between BC Road and Manchi, explained how 72-year-old Ramakrishna died even before they could take him to hospital.

“The makeshift bridge was submerged when we carried him on our shoulders. By the time we reached the ambulance, his condition became critical. He died a day later,” he said.

Farming activity in the village has been hit as people are worried about carrying the fertiliser bags. “The arecanut prices have fallen, but the workers’ wages have gone up from Rs 300 to Rs 450 or more. We are struggling to get loans to make ends meet,” said Shankar.

Shankar said most of the residents in the village do not get even basic needs. “Five streetlights on the way to villages have become dysfunctional, making the walk treacherous. They were last repaired during the elections and have remained off since then,” he told DH.

Rs 25 lakh sought

When asked, officials in Mangaluru Zilla Panchayat’s engineering division said they have assessed the bridge and have sought about Rs 25 lakh to build a new one. “The decision has to be made by higher-ups. Till then, we can’t take up any work,” he said.

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This remote village balances itself on the edge

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