Thanks but no thanks! This was how the villagers of Sajanpura in Chhota Udepur district reacted to a proposal from the district collector offering boats until the state government approves the construction of a bridge across the Hiran river.
A letter from the villagers turning down the proposal of the District Collector of Chhota Udepur — Jenu Devan — reached the local administration on Thursday evening. The letter, signed by 15 villagers, stated, “We understand that you have decided to deploy a boat to help us across the Hiran river. But we request you to please process our petition to construct a bridge to relieve our troubles. The boat is not required.”
After The Sunday Express report on August 3 highlighted the struggle of schoolchildren from 16 villages in Chhota Udepur district, who swim across a swollen river during monsoon to reach their school, with the help of round-bottomed copper vessel, the district administration extended an interim proposal of deploying boats to help villagers cross the river. However the villagers have rebuffed the offer of boats saying they are willing to wait for the bridge as rowing boats is not feasible on the unpredictable rocky-bed Hiran river.
Villagers said that they have turned down the boat from the district administration because they do not see the boat as a solution.
Bhailal Baria of Sajanpura said, “We have communicated in a letter through our revenue officer to the district collector that the boat will not work in this place. We have tried using a boat two years ago and it had overturned on two occasions. The problem with the river is that is has a rocky bed and the water is not deep enough for a boat to escape the rocks. During monsoon, the water is too choppy to row boats. We have been petitioning for this bridge precisely because all other options have failed.”
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A couple of days ago, Chhota Udepur district collector had written to the state government to expedite the proposal for the Rs 13-crore bridge between Kareli village in Narmada and Chamarwada village in Chhota Udepur. During the interim period, Devan offered to procure a boat for the villagers in order to help the students as well as elders cross the Hiran to reach the banks of Narmada district for school and other important activities.
Devan said that the boat was to arrive on the eve of Independence Day on Thursday, but now with the villagers turning down the offer, the district administration has been left helpless. “We were only trying to ease out the situation for them until the time that the state government decides on the pending proposal of the bridge. We are all hoping it will come soon, but government processes are lengthy and even after the approval is received, it will take time to construct the bridge. We had offered the boat as the most feasible solution in the interim, but now that they have turned it down, we will have to simply wait for the approval of the state government.”