The waterless Bhainsavat comes alive every monsoon and morphs into a wide, 210-foot rain-fed river, separating three villages in Rajasthan’s Karauli district from the rest of the world.
There is no bridge across the river that remains dry for most of the year, allowing people to cross its stone-and-sand riverbed on foot and vehicles without much of a hassle.
But once Bhainsavat becomes active during the rainy season from June to September, it becomes a different story.
Bereft of a bridge, the only way to cross the river is on inflated rubber tubes. The average depth of the river is 15 feet, deep enough to drown people at the slightest instance of their wobbly transport keeling over.
That’s one risk about 85 students — the youngest lot barely 11 years old — from Machet, Sevachin ka Pura and Madho Singh ka Pura villages take twice every weekday in the rainy season.
If the sight of children in blue school uniform bobbing on rubber tubes around their torsos is not nerve-wrecking enough, there are times when pregnant women in labour are forced to cross the Bhainsavat the similar way.
For the children, the dangerous river crossing is their only way to reach school and hope for a better future.
Kids of the three villages go to a primary school under Manchi gram panchayat, 15km from the district headquarters. But once they complete class 5, they have to travel 5km to the secondary school at Chainpur Gadoli — with the Bhainsavat in between.
The villagers have been demanding a bridge and had submitted “memorandums to officials and politicians whenever they visit us, but the problem remains,” Manchi sarpanch Hari Singh Meena said.
Bharatpur divisional commissioner Vikas Sitaram Bhale promised to ask the Karauli district collector to suggest a plan to the state government to solve the problem.
“If a bridge cannot be constructed, we can work on an alternative solution,” he said.
Until then, the 200 households under Manchi gram panchayat will continue to remain inaccessible for days during monsoon. The situation becomes horrifying during emergencies, especially expectant mothers needing medical attention.
They have no alternative but to cross the river on rubber tubes. “The panchayat doesn’t have a hospital and for every small thing, we have to go to the district hospital,” sarpanch Meena said.