ALAPPUZHA: Angry posts on Facebook. Signing petitions. Fasting. Arjun shunned these familiar protest methods while trying to make the authorities hear his voice. The 14-year-old swam nearly 3 kms from his home at Perumbalam to reach his school at Poothotta for 11 days on the trot. His demand: Build a bridge between Perumbalam, an island in Vembanad lake, and the main land.
Arjun, a Class IX student of KPMHS, Poothotta, Ernakulam district, has been travelling from his home to school in the Kerala Water Transport Department’s boat for the past nine years. But students and other travellers were put in deep peril when technical snags disrupted the boat service occasionally.
“We have only two boats in this route. If the service is disrupted then the students have to rely on country boats to reach the mainland. These boats are jam-packed, and many students are not trained swimmers, posing grave danger. This led me to start the protest,” said Arjun. Santosh, his father and a member of the agitation committee, too supported his protest.
Sudarsan, the agitation committee president, said: “The Perumbalam natives have been asking the governments to construct a bridge connecting the island to the mainland, but to no avail. It forced us to begin the agitation. After Arjun’s swimming protest, A M Ariff MLA and District Collector R Girija convened a meeting. They told us that the authorities were ready to prepare a feasibility study for the bridge. So, we have stopped the agitation temporarily.”
As a first step, the Ernakulam district administration has taken the initiative to construct a bridge from Perumbalam to Panavally in Alappuzha