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Bendase villagers hang by a rope

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It hardly qualifies as a bridge, but a bundle of rope stretched across the Ulhas river is the only link for residents of Bendase village in Raigad district to civilisation. School children, men, women and the elderly balance themselves precariously over this rope bridge, built nearly 30 years ago to cross over to the other side, and reach Bhivpuri railway station. It gets even more dangerous to play the funambulist over a swollen river during the monsoon when Raigad district receives copious amounts of rainfall.

For the last 13 years, the Bendase villagers have been demanding a permanent bridge across the river. After crossing the existing bridge, villagers have to walk 15 minutes to reach the railway station. The only other option is to walk till Posari village 30 minutes away, and then take a bus to Karjat railway station.

Walking to Bhivpuri railway station is also an arduous task since there is no proper road, and during the monsoon, they have to negotiate sludge and puddles. Anant Kadu, a resident said, “I don’t earn much as I am a painter. I walk down to the station because I cannot afford to take any other transport. It becomes time-consuming as I have to walk for nearly half-an-hour. A permanent bridge will be a blessing.”

On an average, 100 villagers use this bridge everyday, hauling with them their belongings. Though the adjacent villagers have some options, there are 40-odd houses in Bendase village for whom the rope bridge is a lifeline to the other side of the river. Most of the services like school, colleges, markets and fields are located on the opposite side, and hence people have no choice other than to balance their way like a skillful gymnast on ropes.

Despite repeated attempts to contact Raigad district collector Sheetal Teli Ugale, she was not available for comment. But local Nationalist Congress Party Member of the Legislative Assembly Sureshbhau Lad had some good news for the villagers. “We have received the approval for a permanent bridge in the last budget session. Once the tender is passed by the end of the monsoon, work will approximately start after Diwali. By the beginning of next year, we will make sure the villagers have a concrete bridge.”

The intent may well be to do so, but going by government apathy, it appears to be a case of a bridge too far. The writer is a freelance photographer.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 12:11:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/Bendase-villagers-hang-by-a-rope/article14425849.ece

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