Residents of Mawmuthoh village, East Khasi Hills, feel betrayed by the Public Health Engineering Department over the failure to fulfill an apparent agreement to construct a motorable bridge across the River Umiew.
Speaking to Highland Post, Mawmuthoh headman Riborlang Kharumnuid said that every winter the villagers construct a new bridge of bamboo to enable them to cross the river, but this gets washed away every summer during the monsoon.
The village is home to around 320 households, 95 per cent of which depend on agriculture for a living.
When the PHE Department started to build a check dam on the Umiew in 2003, it had promised to build three bridges, including one fit for vehicles, across the river for the welfare of the farmers, Kharumnuid stated.
“Our people feel betrayed because the PHE has never built the bridges and that has put the lives of the residents in great hardship,” he said. “Before the check dam was built, our people lived in peace because our farmers here could easily cross the river to go to their farmlands. But since the check dam was built it has become a curse for our people because we cannot cross to the other side of the river during summers when the river is swollen and dangerous and this has affected the livelihood of our people and many have abandoned their lands,” he said.
Kharumnuid also said that some villagers still risk their lives trying to cross this river while some of the young cowherds and farmers find themselves stuck on the other side when the river suddenly rises during the monsoon season.
“If anything untoward happens the government and the department have to take the responsibility,” Kharumnuid said.
The absence of the bridges has also affected the construction of the Shekinah Academy School run by the Bhanam Evangelistic Association and Mission Society (BEAMS), which is also located on the other side of the river.
Bhanam Warbah, Director of the society and the academy said that they bought the land on the other side of the river because they expected a motorable road to come up as the PHE Department promised.
“I’m not sure but I heard that even the land compensation was not given by the government to the farmers here and the roads in the region are pathetic,” Warbah said.
Besides the bamboo bridges, a boat, costing around Rs 60,000 was presented by the society to the Dorbar Shnong to help villages cross the river, but even this was washed away during a heavy spell of rain in October.
Informing that he had tried seeking appointments with the local MLA Lambor Malngiang several times to discuss the matter but to no avail, he said, “Equipped with 11 teachers including 4 people teachers and other staff the school aims at providing the best quality education with reasonable admission fees including a free school bus, free tuition, etc, including a playground.”
He, however, said that the Shekinah Academy School is being run at a temporary campus located at the center of Mawmuthoh village which is from the nursery level to class IV with a total of more than 100 students from the Mawmuthoh village including villages like Smit, Lad Nongkrem, etc.
He said that without the bridges the construction of the school at the main campus which is on the other side of River Umiew has become a very difficult task with too much expenditure to bring the materials.
“We hope the state government does something to address the plight of the farmers here and not to ill-treat the poor and needy villagers in this manner because they are the ones providing food to all,” he added.