In this MP village, people have to walk on a tightrope for health, education
Ratlam: Slacklining may be an adventure activity for some, but for the residents of a tiny village called Bajeda in Ratlam district, 300 km from Bhopal, it is a way of life.
For over eight years, residents of this hamlet have been forced to walk on a rope to cross over a nullah that separates them from their farmlands and has cut off an entire family from the rest of the village.
The village, with 500 residents, entered the limelight a week ago, after a 24-year-old pregnant woman, Laad Kunwar, went into labour and had to balance herself on the tightrope to cross the 50-feet-wide and 20-feet-deep nullah to reach a hospital at midnight.
The lack of a bridge to cross the nullah has hit Kunwar’s family of 12 the most. The family built their house near the farmlands before a check dam was constructed nearby in 2010, causing the nullah to swell up and remain in full spate throughout the year.
After the check dam was built, the family lost access to the village while the residents of the village lost access to their farmlands. Recalling the night Laad had to cross the bridge on the rope, Sumer Singh, Laad’s brother, said, “We used flashlights to guide her and waited with bated breaths until she was safely on the other side.”
Evolving strategies: Tying sarees higher, carrying children on back
According to Sumer Singh, over the years, his family members have learnt many techniques to balance themselves on the rope which is tied to tree trunks on both ends. “Women tie their sarees higher so it is easier to cross the nullah, while men carry children on their back,” he said.
For the six children in the family, aged between 5 and 13, going to school every day is an ordeal. “Either they have to tire themselves out walking five kilometres on an alternate route, or cling on to a family member who will walk on the rope to carry them to the other side,” Sumer said.
The rope is often used by farmers who want to reach their fields quickly. But there have been many instances where people narrowly escaped after falling into the nullah. What forces residents to continue risking their lives when an alternate route is available? Sumer has the answer.
Alternative route non-motorable, muddy
The alternative route is a kuccha road and it is non-motorable, said Sumer, adding that during monsoon it becomes very muddy, making it difficult to walk on. After giving birth to a boy, Laad used the stretch to reach home. “It was not an option for me when I was in pain and about to give birth. Could I have walked five kilometres in that condition? No,” she said.
Another resident of the village, Bablu, said, “Almost every family owns a farmland on the other side of the nullah. At least 1200 bighas of farmland is on the other side.” He said that carrying farm equipment when slacklining or on foot for several kilometres has been very difficult for farmers.
A farmer, Mala Devi, added, “We use the alternative route when we are carrying farm equipment, but at times, we have strapped lighter equipment to our backs and crossed over the water.”
Can’t make bridge for one family, says admin
The district administration is aware of the situation of the villagers but said that there was no requirement for a bridge as an alternative route was available.
Ruchika Chauhan, Ratlam district collector, said, “We cannot build a bridge for just one family. We have advised them to use the alternative route. They also own a house in the village, but they started living on their farm a few years ago. Farmers who own a farm on the other side use the alternative route to travel. The family should do the same.”
Chauhan said that a team of administrative officials and two engineers had visited the village recently to take stock of the situation. “The team found that the alternate route is only 1.5km away from the nullah and can be used.”
Sumer said that the authorities were overlooking the condition of the alternate route which has made it challenging for residents to use it. “It is not just our family which is at pains, all farmers in the village need to visit their land every day. A daily 5 km trek on a bad road is gruelling for us but no one is ready to understand this.”
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