GUWAHATI, Sept 16 - The State government’s decision to construct a road bridge over the Brahmaputra to connect Guwahati with North Guwahati has been welcomed by Save Guwahati Build Guwahati (SGBG) vice president Ajoy Dutta, who described it as a step towards fulfilling a long-standing demand of the voluntary organisation.
But, in the same breath, Dutta, a recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri Award, cautioned the authorities concerned against any step that might make the bridge emerge as a source of sorrow for the indigenous people of North Guwahati.
Dutta, also a former MLA and a social worker of repute, while talking to this newspaper said that the government should take all care to ensure that the bridge does not become a weapon for elimination of the indigenous people of North Guwahati. The interest of the local people of North Guwahati should be protected first of all. The bridge should not become a tool for alienating them from their ancestral plots of land, Dutta emphasised.
Moreover, the people, who would face eviction due to the land acquisition to be made for the bridge, should be properly compensated and rehabilitated. Utmost care should also be taken to ensure that the culture and ethos of these people are not disturbed, said Dutta.
He also maintained that the bridge should be built in such a manner that it can cater to the road transport needs of the people for the next 50 years.
In this respect, Dutta referred to the umpteen number of developmental projects that affected the indigenous peoples of the State during both the pre and post-Independence periods. He attributed this to the authorities’ failure to safeguard the interests of the indigenous peoples. This should be prevented, he said.
The social worker also called for steps to deploy more Inland Water Transport vessels to facilitate safe conveyance of the people of North Guwahati to and from Guwahati until the bridge is completed. The IWT ferries should also be in sound condition and meet all norms in matters of safety. The people of North Guwahati should not be left to the mercy of the bhutbhuti operators. The government may also introduce frequent city bus services between Guwahati and North Guwahati, he added.
It needs mention that the State government proposes to construct a 1200-metre-long six-lane carriageway bridge having an overall width of 33 metres, over the Brahmaputra, to connect Guwahati with North Guwahati. The State government, through the Union government, has applied for a loan from the New Development Bank towards construction of the bridge.