Thiruvananthapuram: Arjun Santhosh, a fourteen year old student from Kerala’s Alappuzha leaves home in the morning like any other student. In his uniform, with a bag. But unlike others he has a swimsuit and water goggles in his bag. While others wait for a boat, he jumps into the Vembanaad waters, swimming 3 km to his school in Poothotta.
He has been swimming to his school every day for his villagers. A protest demanding a bridge for his village Perumbalam, an island in Kerala’s Alappuzha district.
“Usually boats are late and I get punished at school for being late. Some boats are very small. And there are too many people. It is a cause of worry,” says Arjun.
The Perumbalam panchayat houses more than ten thousand people. This ninth class student decided to join his villagers in protest when their 25-year-old demand for a 700-metre bridge was not met.
“Transportation is a major problem. Last year close to 50 people died here due to medical emergencies… like snake bites for example. It takes about one-and-a-half hours to reach the mainland,” said Abhilash, a resident.
Arjun’s protest completed 10 days for the authorities to acknowledge the villagers’ concern once again but no solid assurance have come their way yet.
“Yes, a bridge is a necessity here. We have six boats here which are in a very poor state,” said Shobhana Chakrapani, panchayat member.
Arjun has agreed to stop his protest hoping the authorities will now take a step towards building a bridge. But he warns them that if they fail, he will go back to taking the route less travelled.