Like each year, about 125 students from 16 villages of Sankheda taluka in Chhota Udepur district will have to swim across the raging Hiran river this monsoon too to get to their schools in Narmada district. According to the Vadodara Roads and Buildings department — which floated a tender inviting bids for the construction of the bridge that has been eluding villagers for over seven years — the work order and subsequent construction on the river bridge will only begin by November.
The Vadodara R&B department had floated the tender for the elevated 215 metre river bridge in April-end, placing a deadline of May 25 for the bids. However, the date has been extended by one week until June 1, after which, the officers say they will open the bids the finalise the contractor. The work order, however, will be allotted only after monsoon. H Parmar, executive engineer, R&B Department Vadodara said, “We have received some bids already, but since the date has been extended until June 1, we will be able to view them only later. The work order and the subsequent bhumi puja for the project will, however, take place only after Dusherra that falls on October 22 as it is impossible to begin work during monsoon.”
The tender issued states that the bridge will be built across River Hiran on Chamarwada-Kareli road in Sankheda taluka. The estimated tender bid is Rs 8.65 crore with a tender fees of Rs 12,000. The bridge as been classified under Special Category-1, which means that the Contractor must comply with the conditions of the category to bid for the project.
The department had conducted the soil testing of the location after taking samples in October 2014. “It is conducive for construction and so the elevated design was finalised. The bridge will be diagonal from Chamarw-ada in Sankheda to Kareli in Chamarwada. It has been given elevation as Hiran is known to swell during monsoon.”
It was after the report in The Indian Express on August 3, 2014, highlighting the plight of the students swimming to school, that the government of Gujarat had cleared the proposal for the Hiran River bridge. For the students of the Utavadi school, the upcoming monsoon would mean yet another swim to the school. In September 2014, after the report in this newspaper, an NRI couple from New York had travelled to Sajanpura village in Sankheda and gifted the students an inflatable rubber dinghy to cross the raging river during the monsoons. However, the villagers rue that they were unable to maintain the boat, that has already been punctured in one of its three compartments.
Narpatsinh Chauhan of Sewada in Narmada, where the students land after crossing the river on their way to school, said, “Although the NRI couple were generous in gifting the boat and life jackets for the students in the custody of the village elders of Sajanpura, the boat has now got punctured. We are trying to repair the puncture to ensure that the students will be able to use the boat during the monsoon. However, if we are unable to do so, they will unfortunately have to swim again. The government has been extremely slow and lethargic in the process of approving this bridge.”
Vasudev Shankar, a student says, “We are waiting eagerly for the bridge as the boat is punctured. We were extremely happy that the boat ensured we do not get drenched on our way to school, but now we will have to swim again. The government should understand our need and build the bridge urgently so that we can have permanent solution to the problem of getting to school for all other students who will come after us as well.” Chauhan, along with other villagers across Sankheda Taluka in Chhota Udepur district, had been petitioning the government to approve the bridge since 2009.
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