For seven years, villagers from Chhota Udepur district in Gujarat petitioned the authorities for a bridge that would ensure their children don’t have to swim to school.
Now, the district administration has finally picked up pace to construct a river bridge across the Hiran so it can end the struggle of about 125 students who take the water route daily to reach their school in Utavadi in Narmada district.
On Monday, a day after The Sunday Express first reported about the plight of the students, Chhota Udepur collector Jenu Devan wrote to the Gujarat government to expedite its pending approval for the construction of the bridge.
District administration officials, who visited the villages on Sunday to discuss the issue with locals, assured them that the process to construct the bridge, which would connect Chamarwada in Sankheda taluka of Chhota Udepur to Kareli in Tilakwada taluka of Narmada district, would start soon.
Apart from helping students, the bridge would also make Narmada district more accessible to villagers.
“I have written to the state government reminding them about the pending approval. I have requested them to speed up the process given the seriousness of the case, in the wake of the attention it has received now. I am expecting a positive reply from the government after which we will consult experts for a feasibility report to connect the banks between Chamarwada and Kareli,” Devan said.
Devan said the location of the bridge was decided earlier following petitions from villagers, and a request for funds had been sent to the state government on March 20, 2014. “We will involve experts to check the feasibility, soil and geographic locations. We understand villagers prefer to send their children to study and work in Utavadi. This will help them commute faster,” said Devan.
Currently, the closest river bridge available to the students requires a 15 km detour to reach Utavadi.
Congress attacks BJP, says govt least concerned
The Congress on Monday attacked the BJP government in Gujarat after The Sunday Express reported about the plight of the 125 students who, in the absence of a bridge, are daily forced to swim in order to reach school in Chhota Udepur district.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the state government was neither concerned about their safety nor their future. With comments dripping with sarcasm, he said the Gujarat government, which was busy ensuring all-round development of the state, had not paid attention to the girls and boys.
The Congress, he said, would like to draw the attention of Gujarat’s first woman CM towards this “inhuman story” so that a comprehensive solution could be found.