In the drawing rooms of the affluent in urban India, we celebrate the heavy infra buildout which urban India has experienced over the past decade. And, when the mood takes us in Mumbai, we take our car for a spin on Atal Setu even as we look forward to using one of the many metro lines which are being built in Mumbai. However, back in the ranch in rural India, the story is a little different as this article in the Indian Express highlights:

“The Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed local authorities in Dhar district to fasttrack the construction of a bridge on the Koteshwari river, six months after The Indian Express reported how tribal children in the district were forced to swim across a river infested with snakes to attend school.

The report, published on August 8, 2023, chronicled the four-decade struggle of tribal villagers from the Bhil community, with many children having to drop out of school. Despite election promises by both the BJP and Congress, local authorities have failed to build a bridge across the river.

A bench of justices Justice Vivek Rusia and Anil Verma, in an order passed earlier this month, directed the state authorities to consider a proposal and take a final decision to build a slab culvert/bridge on the river within 90 days.”

The Express article contains a video showing how these kids strip down to their underpants and then swim across a river (twice a day) infested by snakes and crocs. The video shows that these children’s parents also swam across the same river to reach school. As you would expect therefore, a bridge across the Koteshwari River has been a long pending demand of these tribal (Bhil) folk: “The bridge has been a longstanding demand of the villagers, and the Chief Executive Officer, Jila Panchayat of Dhar, had sent a proposal in 2011 to the Panchayat and Rural Development Department for construction of a culvert on the river.”

Now, hopefully, the wheels of justice are spinning in the favour of the Bhil people: “The MP government told the High Court that that the “Rural Engineering Services Department, Dhar, taking into consideration the legitimate demand raised with regard to construction of a bridge on the river, has prepared a proposal and sent it to the Rural Engineering Services Department for construction of said bridge with an estimated cost of Rs 108.13 lakh”.

The MP government said the bridge will be given priority and “constructed under MGNREGA after following the due process”.”

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