The Gujarat model of development has been a topic of much discussion in recent times and the good, bad and ugly has been analysed threadbare. While the jury is still out on whether it is the desired model of growth, a shocking story has emerged from the state. Children in a tribal village in Gujarat have to swim through a river everyday, to attend the nearest school, according to an Indian Express report.
While the zeal of the students is certainly praiseworthy, it surely is an example of serious lapse on the part of the Gujarat government. Boys and girls from Sajanpura village swim for thirty minutes to cross the 600 metre wide river. They then have to walk for another five kilometres to reach the Utavadi village where the nearest school is located. The girls carry a heavy pot which helps them to stay afloat while crossing the Hiran river but are forced to go through their classes with wet uniforms throughout the day.
According to the report, nearly 125 students of 16 tribal villages are forced to undertake this arduous journey everyday just to continue with their studies. They are accompanied by atleast one guardian who volunteers to ensure that they reach school safe and sound. The villagers say that they have been appealing for the last seven years to construct a bridge to connect the villages of Narmada district to Chota Udepur, but to no avail. According to the village sarpanch of Sewada, they have also petitioned current Chief Minister Anandi Patel, who visited the area three years ago, but nothing fruitful had happened yet.
The guardians fear that strong currents in the Hiran river may lead to a disaster one day and live in perennial panic. Some crocodiles have also been occasionally spotted in the river, but thankfully, no major incident has occurred till now. The kids still want to continue with their studies even though they have been endangering their life in the process.
In summer, the Hiran river is nearly dry and the children don't have much of a problem to cross the river. But once the monsoon sets in, it is a huge struggle for them to reach their school. According to the sarpanch, Narendra Modi had assured to expedite the construction of the bridge in 2009. But while he seems to have moved on to higher office, these kids in his home state continue to swim in difficulty.