Cotigao village panchayat, with a population of about 3000 people, is predominantly a village of scheduled tribes, set in thick green forests of Cotigao wild life sanctuary, where life generally is a struggle for survival.
People belonging to scheduled tribes, which comprise of 95 per cent of the total population, till the fields in the monsoons. Besides that, there is no work for most of the populace of the village that is forced to go out of the village for manual and other labour-related work.
And if these problems were not enough, as monsoons approach they are faced with another problem of depleted bridges. In fact the village roads connected by five minor bridges are corroded beyond repair and on the verge of collapse.
Locals are upset with the PWD authorities, as even after submitting resolutions passed by the Cotigao panchayat for several years to rebuilding these bridges, apart from preparing estimates no action has been taken nor any bridge repaired.
In fact, the locals point out that the condition of the bridges is very bad, as they are in a highly dilapidated condition and may even collapse without warning causing a major tragedy.
Interestingly, a casual look from the underside of the five bridges, built about three to four decades ago, will reveal that construction rods supporting the concrete have corroded beyond repair and the entire slab of concrete may cave in during the ensuing monsoon.
Speaking to Herald, Sarpanch of Cotigao village panchayat Umesh Gaonkar, was very critical of the lackluster and careless attitudes of the PWD officials, who look after village roads, and expressed anguish at the state of affairs.
“Every time I approach the PWD assistant engineer’s office they say estimates have been prepared and the file is gone for financial approval. In fact, this has been going on for the past several years and perhaps the authorities will wake up only after one of the bridges will collapse”, he said, while suggesting to take up the works from funding of tribal sub-plan.
When contacted, former Cotigao sarpanch Rajesh Gaonkar said, they had submitted a number of resolutions, even when he was the sarpanch to the PWD to inspect all bridges in the panchayat jurisdiction. “At present all these bridges are on the verge of collapse and the PWD will be solely held responsible for any tragedy on account of their negligence,” he cautioned.
Enquiries with Elvis Fernandes, the personal assistant of Canacona MLA Isidore Fernandes, revealed that the MLA has written to the concerned department requesting to conduct audit of all the bridges and culverts in the taluka for structural stability and to act on the findings on priority.
Sources at the PWD who look after the village roads, while speaking to Herald, said since they had done the combined estimates of all seven minor bridges, which are in distress, their higher ups have asked them to do the estimates of each bridge separately. They affirmed that the estimates would be done soon. [H]