People of three villages in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh have threatened to boycott the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections due next year, if the government fails to construct a permanent bridge over a river, a key demand of them since 2014.
The villages — Rime Moko, Pidi Rime and Todi Rime — have a population of nearly 400 and approximately 300 of them are voters. The northeastern State has a population of only 13.84 lakh, according to the 2011 census.
There is a makeshift bridge – a 20-metre odd log with a rickety wooden railing on one side for a user to hold – made by locals, but this is of no use during the monsoon as it goes below the rising water level of the Hijum river, a tributary of the Pisam.
“When the river is in spate, parents don’t send their wards to schools. They fear that the children might slip off the log bridge,” said Pokpe Rime who lives in Rime Moko village.
It is also extremely difficult to take a patient to a hospital in the absence of a proper bridge, monsoon or not. “We have to carry patients on our back and cross the log bridge over the river to the Nikte primary health centre or the Aalo General Hospital,” Pokpe said.
The road connectivity issue is also affecting the area economically and socially, people of the villages feel.
Residents of Rime Moko, Pidi Rime and Tode Rime villages recently discussed the issue among themselves and resolved to urge the State government to construct an all-weather road from Pidi Rime to Hijum and a permanent bridge over the river.
They also sought improvement of the existing PMGSY road from Tabasora to Rime Moku and development of another road from Nyorak to Tode Rime, via Pidi Rime.
“If the State government fails to fulfil our demands, we will resort to democratic agitation and if necessary, we will go to the extent of boycotting the upcoming Parliamentary and Assembly elections,” Rime Moko ‘gaon burah’ (village head) Gambin Rime said.
Pidi Rime village head Pokjo Rime said they have requested the local MLA about their requirements twice — once after his election in 2014 and also during his second term in 2019, but in vain.
“Our last hope is to request Union Minister Kiren Rijiju (who hails from Arunachal Pradesh),” Pokjo Rime said. The villages come under the Aalo West Assembly constituency and Arunachal West Lok Sabha constituency.
Union Earth Science Minister Kiren Rijiju is the local MP while State Industries Minister Tumke Bagra represents the Assembly seat.
“We are suffering due to neglect by the elected representatives. Our area is neglected maybe because the population is less,” Pokpe claimed.
“We are helpless. If the bridge is washed away, the people of the villages will not be able to see each other. Even schoolchildren will have to sit home idle,” said Gram Panchayat chairperson Domin Rime.
“The existing PMGSY road from Tabasora to Rime Moko, constructed in 2001-2002, is not motorable now and the road has not been repaired or maintained for a long time,” he said.
Minister Bagra, when contacted, said no developmental work could be taken up due to COVID-19. “Most of the funds were used for procurement of vaccines, equipment and medicines by the State government,” he said.
No money was available under Special Infrastructure Development Fund (SIDF), the two-time BJP legislator said adding that he would try to construct the bridge under a scheme. Mr. Bagra, however, added that it is difficult as not even a year is left for the polls. He declined to comment on the call for boycotting the general- and State elections.