People Laughed At This Boatman But He Changed The Destiny Of Villages Forever
Taking up infrastructure works requires a lot of funds, manpower and presents an opportunity to earn heavy profits. But what if we tell you that a man living 80 km away from Kolkata built a bridge only so that he can make hundreds of lives easier? Yes, there exists a man who did something even governments didn’t do.
Meet 44-year-old Sheikh Lalchand who overlooked the fact that he was just a poor boatman and not an engineer and still went ahead to build a bamboo bridge on Mundeswari river. It might sound unbelievable for an ordinary man like him but his extraordinary story will make you admire his determination and intention.
Resident of Ghoraberia-Chitnan in Howrah district, Sheikh Lalchand had been rowing a boat on Mundeswari river for a living. He helped people cross from one side of the river to another and was often disturbed to see the plight of students, elderly and women, especially pregnant women.
The only way the villagers could cross over was through a boat but this option became dysfunctional in the times of high time when the water level rose up or during summers when the river became so shallow and muddy that it wasn’t possible to row in boat on it.
Despite repeated pleas to the government and the local administration, a bridge was not built for the villagers. To fool the innocent villagers ahead of Assembly polls in 2006 and 2011, political leader visited their village and laid the foundation stone for a bridge but conveniently forgot their promises afterwards.
While other villagers let the disappointment get diluted, Lalchand could not see the plight of people anymore. He approached the villagers with an idea to built a bridge but they laughed him off. They sure had a tough time imagining how a man who earned a few hundred rupees could build a bridge.
“They declared that I needed an immediate mental check-up. Still, I swallowed their criticism with a smile.” (Told to The Weekend Leader)
After many days of insisting, the gram panchayat gave him the permission to build a bridge but only if he managed the expenses himself. They thought this would discourage Lalchand to pursue the matter but he agreed.
For this he needed approximately Rs 7.5 lakh. The first thing that he did was to sell his wife’s ornaments for Rs 3 lakh which made her very angry. Her wife thought it was extremely foolish of him to sell off his personal belongings to help people who were not even his family members. But all Lalchand wanted was to see a bridge over the river.
He borrowed money from his friends and even pooled his savings. He hired 16 labors who knew how to build a bridge and bought 3,500 bamboo sticks suitable for the purpose. After working for 28 days straight the bridge was completed. Passers by couldn’t believe what the determination of a boatman had done who did not care that his own livelihood will be lost
Now, people happily pay a nominal amount of toll price to ply on the Sheikh Lalchand Bridge. The lone efforts of Lalchand has completely turned around the daily lives of people. Earlier, people did not wed their daughter in Ghoraberia-Chitnan and surrounding villages because of poor connectivity but the easy accessibility has changed that.
More than 2,000 people now use the bridge everyday. Those on foot or a bicycle pay Rs 2, people on two-wheeler Rs 5, Magic IRIS Tata vehicles Rs 50 while a Maruti Van pays Rs 100 to ply on the bridge. For security and surveillance, there are four cameras installed which see that two vehicles are not plying from the opposite directions at the same time. In another benefit, the bridge has also allowed police to inspect the area and helped the crime rate in the villages go down.
The people of Ghoraberia-Chitnan do not have any words to describe the noble deed of Lalchand. Those who laughed on him once cannot stop praising his determination and efforts. Sheikh Lalchand did not care when the people made fun of him or discouraged him. He believed that there is a better future for all of them and took the responsibility of creating one.