Koraput: The poor tribal residents of Ghantraguda in Koraput may not have heard of the ‘Mountain Man’ Dashrath Manjhi, but like him took up the work of constructing a road cutting through the hills on their own to address their connectivity problems.
The villagers – men and women cut through a hill and cleared shrubs and have constructed a 6 km long kuchha road connecting Ghantraguda with Puki Chhack in the district.
Ghantraguda is located about 35 km from Koraput town in southern Odisha and the diversion due to the lack of road made the villagers travel 52 km to reach it. They were forced to take a detour to reach the headquarter town for various works and often faced problems.
The road constructed by the villagers will reduce the distance by a good 20 km, said Lachna Purasethi, a villager. The requests to the authorities concerned for a shorter road had not helped matters.
“We appealed to the authorities for the road many times, but to no avail. Therefore, we decided to construct the road on our own,” said Lochan Bisoi, a villager.
Armed with farm tools like the hoe, sickle, machete and the spade started, the poor tribal villagers began carving out the hill, he said.
“In the absence of direct roads we face much difficulty in reaching Koraput town, specially in the nights and more so during the rainy season. Shifting patients to the hospital at Koraput becomes a nightmare and only God knows how we manage it,” he said.
The villagers said a metal road was constructed by the administration about 15 years back but there is no sign of it now due to lack of maintenance.
The road constructed by them will help around 4000 residents of at least nine villages, apart from Ghantraguda, on completion, they claimed.
“The village has been included in the rural connectivity programme and a pucca road will be constructed soon,” said Damburudhar Mallick, the block development officer of Dasmantpur, under which Ghantraguda falls.
Dashrath Manjhi was an agricultural labourer of Gehlaur village, near Gaya in Bihar. In 1959 his wife died reportedly due to injury after she fell from a mountain and he could not take her to the hospital in the town, 90 km away in time because of lack of roads. A distraught but determined Manjhi later began to carve a path 110 m long (360 ft), 9.1 m (30 ft) wide and 7.7 m (25 ft) deep through a ridge of hills using only a hammer and a chisel.
After 22 years of work, Dashrath shortened travel between the Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya district from 55 km to 15 km.