Days after The Sunday Express reported about school children from 16 villages in Sankheda being forced to swim across the raging Hiran river to reach their school in Utavadi village in Narmada district, the Gujarat government has finally cleared the long-pending proposal for the river bridge.
The confirmation from the state government comes after the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) slapped a notice on the chief secretary of Gujarat Wednesday, taking cognizance of The Sunday Express report and demanding a report.
On Wednesday, hours after the NHRC sent a notice to the Gujarat government seeking an explanation on the “violation of human rights and rights to education” of the 125 children in Chhota Udepur, Gujarat government spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Nitin Patel claimed that the state government had approved the proposal of the district administration for the construction of the river bridge on August 14.
He also said that the government was all set to float tenders and begin construction of the bridge at the earliest. Patel told The Indian Express, “We have already sanctioned the bridge on the river on August 14. The necessary procedure for the same and the floating of tenders will be done soon.” He added that a tender of Rs 8 crore would be floated to construct the bridge. However, he denied having any knowledge about a notice from the NHRC.
On Wednesday, the NHRC had sought an official report from the Gujarat government, stating, “The NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that in the absence of a bridge, about 125 students of five villages…have to swim across the Hiran river to go to their government school… The villagers have been requesting for the construction of a bridge over the river for a very long time, but in vain.
The report also carries a photograph of the children swimming across the river. The commission has observed that (it) raises serious issues of violation of right to life of the children…and the right to education of those who are not able to go to school due to this problem. Accordingly, a notice has been issued to the chief secretary, government of Gujarat, calling for a report within four weeks.”
A day after the report in The Sunday Express, on August 4, Chhota Udepur collector Jenu Devan had written to the state government to expedite its approval for the construction of the bridge, pending since March 2014, when the district administration had first presented its proposal to construct the bridge at a cost of Rs 13 crore to connect Chamarwada in Sankheda taluka of Chhota Udepur to Kareli in Tilakwada taluka in Narmada district.
Last week, villagers of Sajanpura turned down the offer of the district administration to accept a boat to ferry students across the banks and demanded immediate approval for the bridge.
DDC vice-chairperson Ashish Khetan said, “As of today he does not hold the charge anymore.”