A woman is seen loading firewood and crossing the river in a tuin that connects Shahid Lakhan Rural Municipality-4 of Gorkha and Ichhakamana Rural Municipality-4 of Chitwan district in these recent pictures. Photo: Narhari Sapkota/My Republica
GORKHA, March 24: As soon as he assumed office in September 2015, Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli made a promise to replace all the improvised cable crossings known as tuin in the country would be replaced with suspension bridges. He said that tuins, which putt people’s lives at risk, would become extinct within two years. Though tuins disappeared from some places during this period, in some areas, they remain the means for crossing the river. And as such a lot of people in Gorkha are still waiting for the government to fulfil its pledge.
Two major suspension bridges that connect Gorkha with Prithvi Highway are in limbo after contractors left work midway. Incomplete construction of these suspension bridges has been forcing hundreds of people in Gorkha to use tuins for crossing rivers.
“We still put our lives on the line, literally, by crossing the river through tuins. For us, the tuins are still an everyday dread. They are not extinct, as the prime minister had promised. And we don’t know if the prime minister will ever fulfil his promise,” said Rana Bahadur Rana, a resident of Shahid Lakhan Rural Municipality – 4.
Tuins not only pose a risk to human but also to their cattle and goods they carry. Finding villagers without anecdote of such stories is a challenge here. School children who cross rivers carrying books and bags have lost their stationaries and belongings to the river while crossing via tuin.
“It is so pathetic to see children use dangerous tuin to cross the river. While mothers help younger babies by giving them a piggyback ride on the tuins, elder ones have to use the tuin on their own to cross the river. You can see children crossing the river everyday,” said Rana.
“When the Prime Minister promised to change the situation, we were expecting that he would make it happen. But it seems that even he has not been able to fix this problem,” he lamented.
Crossing the river through tuin is the only option for the locals to get to market, schools, colleges. This means children cross the river at least twice a day while elders do it as per their need.
Of all the Chepang community members are worst affected by the lack of safe bridge is the Chepang community. The community is situated at the border of Gorkha and Chitwan districts. The two districts share a border along a tiny portion of land where this community lives.
“There are a few Chepang families who live at the border. For them, it’s just 10 minutes of distance to and from the two districts. But this is when they use the tuin, which they do almost every day,” elaborated Rana. “If at all every community is important for the government, irrespective of their economic and social background, this issue should immediately draw the government’s attention,” he added.
Chapangs move around to collect fodder and food. They also come to the market to sell firewood. They carry huge bundles of firewood on their back and cross the river with the help of tuin.
“Chepang are among the most marginalized communities. Hardly anyone from the community is educated or has access to political party members or government officials. They cannot speak for themselves as others do,” said Rana, adding that the community is vulnerable also in terms of access to health services.
“I have seen Chepangs marrying at a very young age, and early motherhood is very common in their community. These young mothers from the community cross tuins with their babies tied to their back. It is very heart-wrenching to see their plight,” Rana said.
Mana Construction JV was tasked with the responsibility of building a bridge at the border. Had it completed on time, the new bridge would be a year old now. However, so far, only pillars are seen at the construction site. Sources say that the contractor had tried to source local contractors to finish the job, but the deal never materialized.
“We have heard that the main contractor could not reach a deal with local contractors for completing the construction of the project. So, bridge project is in limbo,” Rana said.
Locals have put pressure on the contractor company from time to time, however, the latter has not resumed the project. The same contractor company has left the construction of a bridge over Trishuli River at Gyalchowk area incomplete. This has also deprived many people in the area of safer means to cross the river. Residents that go to the Charaudi market for shopping are affected the most.
According to Hom Bahadur Rana, Chairperson of Gandaki Rural Municipality – 8, the two tuins are in a dilapidated condition. “Those tuins are over two decades old. They are in a very sorry state and should be replaced as soon as possible,” he said.