Dibrugarh: To finish the year on a high note, the long-awaited Bogibeel project is a heartbeat away from seeing the light of day. The Bogibeel Bridge, as it is popularly known as, isn’t the official name, but gained currency from the name of the place on the Southern bank of the Brahmaputra where it stands. Located a few kilometres away from the Dibrugarh town, Bogibeel is a nondescript locality, except for the fact that the mighty river washes its shore, supplying the necessary sediments for the cultivation of vegetables, besides serving as a point of departure for the ferries sailing to the Northern bank of the river. However, things are about to change. The 4.94-km rail-cum-road bridge over the gushing waters of the Brahmaputra, the longest of the kind in the country so far, is all set to bring a sea of transformation to the economy of the place, as well as to its importance in the greater scheme of things.
The project will not just bring both the banks closed and promote greater integration, but will also set the stage for rapid development of the districts of Dhemaji and North Lakhimpur, apart from the southern parts of Arunachal Pradesh. By sharply reducing the travel time between the two banks, the bridge, designed on the lines of one connecting Sweden with Denmark, will bring waves of relief to the people who were hitherto wasting a lot of time, and as a corollary, increase their contribution to the state’s GDP. The railway tracks, laid on its lower deck, would also spell magic, for they will dramatically cut down the distance between Arunachal Pradesh and Dibrugarh, and even between Dibrugarh and New Delhi. In addition to all that, the strategic importance of Arunachal Pradesh, given its proximity to China, would also be taken care of. Indian supplies would also reach many hinterland regions of the easternmost Himalayan state faster and cheaper, helping the people integrate with the mainland better.
The places on the Southern Bank also stand to benefit from the perspective of education and healthcare, besides trade. The educational institutions of Dibrugarh already have a strong presence of students from North Lakhimpur and Dhemaji. The percentage will only grow higher now. Same can be said about the patients, who don’t have to undertake an arduous journey while coming to Assam Medical College and Hospital, or any of the state-of-the-art private nursing homes the town boasts of being home to. The districts of Tinsukia, Sivasagar, Charaideo, Majuli and Jorhat – all southern bank places – will also draw the people of the other side for their own individual attributes, be it historical, spiritual or commercial.
That being said, the journey of the bridge has been a bumpy one. Although sanctioned by the Central government way back in 1997-98 and inaugurated by the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the bridge missed many deadlines. Though there is no denying that the project, for long, was a victim of political unwillingness and red tapes, the vagaries of nature also carried the blame partially. Nevertheless, wrenching itself free from the grip of further deferment, as the bridge stands to make good on its promises, a row over its naming has erupted, with different indigenous groups demanding different names to be assigned to the dream project. As unfortunate as it might sound, a dispassionate look at the developments may help us fathom the depth of the problem. Assam is home to a vast majority of tribes, and therefore, is rightly placed under Schedule 6 of the Constitution.
The Bogibeel project has been a longstanding demand of the people of the region. The effort to get the two banks connected was initiated by Dibrugarh Nagarik Sangha in the year 1977. Having realized the pressing need of having such a bridge, a three-member delegation had then urged the Chairman of North Eastern Council, based in Shillong, L.P. Singh, to take the required measures for its construction. The bridge was later mentioned in the famous Assam Accord of 1985, paving the way for various political parties, industrial communities and conscious citizens of both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, including Purbanchal Nagarik Samity, to step up the demand.
Therefore, as the dream project gets inaugurated on December 25 by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, it will be much more than an architectural marvel that will oversee the mighty Brahmaputra. It’ll stand tall as a symbol of decades-long persistence and tenaciousness. To quote Colin Powell, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
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