13 Sep 2023 11:37 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the District Collector, Aurangabad to provide proper boats with specialised operator, life jackets, and rescue air tubes to children rowing thermocol rafts with makeshift oars to cross backwaters of Jayakwadi dam and reach school.A division bench of Justice Ravindra Ghuge and Justice YG Khobragade sitting at Aurangabad recommended having at least two...
The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the District Collector, Aurangabad to provide proper boats with specialised operator, life jackets, and rescue air tubes to children rowing thermocol rafts with makeshift oars to cross backwaters of Jayakwadi dam and reach school.
A division bench of Justice Ravindra Ghuge and Justice YG Khobragade sitting at Aurangabad recommended having at least two boats to operate in multiple shifts, enabling 24/7 access to transportation.
“The District Collector, Aurangabad, shall forthwith ensure that these students are provided with either a proper boat with a specialized operator, who will navigate the boat through backwaters or a motorboat, if possible. Life jackets and/or rescue air tubes should also be provided/ attached to the said boats, which would ferry these students to the school during their school hours, meaning, while going to the school as per their school timings and returning back home after school hours”, the court directed.
The court was dealing with a Suo Moto PIL taking cognizance of a news report published in the Times of India, Aurangabad edition on August 27, 2023 shedding light on the challenges faced by the students from Bhiv Dhanora. These students were using makeshift rafts fashioned from thermocol sheets and bamboo sticks, equipped with plastic square pieces as paddles, to cross the backwaters of the Jayakwadi Dam twice daily to attend school.
Bhiv Dhanora, a village just five kilometers from the Aurangabad-Pune national highway, is surrounded by the Jayakwadi Dam backwaters, Shivna river, and Lahuri river. The court appointed Advocate Pushkar Shendurnikar as Amicus Curiae in the case.
The court appreciated the determination displayed by both girl and male students, some as young as eight and nine years old, who persevered with their education despite these challenging circumstances. Their parents, who lost agricultural lands due to public projects, have been displaced but continue to support their children's education.
“we have no words to express our appreciation for the girl and male students coming from farmers’ families of the said village, who have shown their grit and determination in pursuing their education, by traveling to school from the backwaters and returning back. It is an every day’s threat for life. These children deserve compliments for undertaking such journey twice a day for the last more than 12 months”, the court remarked.
These students use thermocol rafts, locally known as "Chappu," to navigate the turbulent backwaters. Pregnant women, the elderly, and those requiring medical attention also rely on this mode of transportation to access essential facilities, the court noted. The court acknowledged the life-threatening nature of this journey, where children have encountered venomous snakes on their rafts, adding to the daily risks they face.
The court directed the District Collector to provide a proper boat with a specialized operator or a motorboat for the students. Additionally, life jackets and rescue air tubes were to be provided or attached to these boats for use during school hours and other times, ensuring that sick, elderly, and pregnant individuals could also access medical facilities.
Further, the District Collector was encouraged to collaborate with local representatives to generate funds for sustained transportation services to benefit the villagers.
The court emphasized that the order must be implemented within 12 hours for the safety of these students, elderly residents, sick individuals, and expectant mothers, to mitigate the risks they face during their daily commute.
Case No. Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation No. 2 of 2023
Case Title – Registrar Judicial, High Court of Bombay Bench at Aurangabad v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.
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