Residents of MP tribal village cut road through mountain after forest dept rejects proposal

Residents of MP tribal village cut road through mountain after forest dept rejects proposal

Residents of MP tribal village cut road through mountain after forest dept rejects proposal

Binaiki, Madhya Pradesh: Up until recently, the tribal village of Binaiki in Madhya Pradesh's Narsinghpur district had no road connectivity. Going to a hospital meant trekking up a mountain for 12 kilometres one way. No longer. 

Binaiki now has a kutcha (unpaved) road, which a group of youngsters and elderly from

the village have built by cutting through the mountain with nothing but their pickaxes

and spades. They have carved a five-kilometre path since last October while the work on the remaining 30 per cent is on. Once complete, the path will reduce their commute to the tehsil headquarters of Kareli from six hours to two. 

The villagers took the matter into their own hands after the local administration failed to meet their repetitive demands for road connectivity, Bhagchand Thakur, member of the Nayakheda panchayat under which the village of Binaiki falls, informs 101Reporters. 

Quite like the 'Mountain Man' aka late Dashrath Manjhi from Bihar, Thakur, 43, has been toiling every morning to chip the rocks. He is joined by 20-25 other youngsters from the village, including women, in this initiative.

The villagers, mostly youth, have been carving the path since last October. Credit: Pankaj Gupta

'Deprived of development, marriage proposals'

Inhabited by 150 families, Binaiki is locked by the Satpura mountain range on all sides. The geographical isolation has denied them mainstream development, villagers allege, citing they have to cross the mountain just to sell their crops or get basic official work done.

When residents fall sick, they have to be carried across the mountain on a cot to reach the nearest hospital in Kareli because no vehicles can ply. And when the monsoon arrives, they are unofficially locked up in the village because the mountains become slippery and dangerous to trek past. "We have to stock up groceries to tide over the rainy season," Bhagchand shares in Hindi.

The inaccessibility affects children and youth as much. That's because the village only has a primary school up to class five. For those looking to study further have to walk up the mountain for six kilometres daily to get to the higher secondary school in Nayakheda.

Sanju Singh is one of those youth from Binaiki who could not study past class five and has taken up odd jobs to earn daily wages. As for his peers, they make a living by selling forest produce like herbs and bamboo.

The absence of roads has also hit their marriage prospects. Resident Lalit Cole shares that women from the neighbouring areas reject their proposals as the village is cut off from the world.

The village is lagging behind in development because it is isolated. Credit: Pankaj Gupta

Protected area, thus bid rejected: Official

101Reporters has learnt that the state tribal department had proposed the idea of building a road to Binaiki to the forest department in 2015 but the latter had turned it down. 

Thakur Niranjan Singh, Deputy Ranger, Kareli Forest Department, explains why. Binaiki is a wildlife protected area under the Satpura mountain range, which prohibits the forest department from approving such projects. Only the environment ministry can give a go-ahead in such cases, he informs.

Manoj Thakur, Additional Collector of Narsinghpur, says there is no shortage of resources or funds to execute the project but since the village comes under the jurisdiction of the forest department, the decision lies with them.

It was not just the forest department but also a section of villagers from Binaiki who were opposed to the project. They were concerned that the road would pass through their houses and displace them, Manoj explains. 

This kutcha road, however, hasn't forced anyone to move, Bhagchand claims, adding that only a few invasive shrub trees have been cut down. 

*Lead picture used for representational purpose only. Credit: Pixabay

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