The Maharashtra government informed the Bombay High Court on Tuesday that the families residing in an interior village in Satara, where the girls have to row a boat and walk for 4 kilometres to reach school, have refused their offer of a rehabilitation scheme and hostel facilities in another school for the children.
The HC had taken Suo moto (on its own) cognisance of the media report highlighting How the students of Khirkhindi village in Satara district have to travel by boat in the Koyana backwater and then walk through the forest to reach their school.
During the hearing on Tuesday, a division bench of Justices PB Varale and SM Modak said that they would expand the scope of the petition if students were suffering due to a lack of means.
The government filed three different affidavits, one by the forests department, the second by the education department and the third by the concerned Tahsildar. The affidavits were filed after the HC took Suo moto (on its own) cognisance of the media report highlighting How the students of Khirkhindi village in Satara district have to travel by boat in the Koyana backwater and then walk through the forest to reach their school.
The affidavit filed by Assistant Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Subhash Bagadi said Khirkhindi village falls within the “critical tiger habitat” or “core area of Sahyadri Tiger Reserve” and hence it was proposed for rehabilitation of families.
It states that 70 families of this village were relocated to Bhiwandi in the Thane district where they were given agricultural land and house plots. However, these six families have refused to shift to the place allotted to them in Bhiwandi.
“Eight students from these six families continue to reside in Khirkhindi village and take the boat to reach their school. These families have not accepted the rehabilitation offered by the government,” read the affidavit. Besides, it would not be possible to construct a road to Khirkhindi village as it falls under the no construction zone.
Tahsildar of Jawali Taluka Rajendra Pol filed an affidavit reiterating that the six families refused to relocate despite repeated notices. “Despite repeated notices and being informed in person, these families were not ready to shift and continued to reside in their village at their own risk,” read the Tahsildar’s affidavit. It further added that various facilities and help have been provided by different NGOs to these families such as cycles, boats and life jackets.
The Tahsildar has further said: “The education department also sent a proposal to the parents of these students who are travelling from Khirkhindi, that they would be accommodated in a hostel in Jawali taluka. But the parents of these students are not ready to send them to the hostel.”
Joint Secretary of the School Education and Sports department Imitiyaz Kazi has filed an affidavit stating that out of the eight students, two are studying in Khirkhindi Zilla Parishad school and the remaining have to go to the school in Shembadi as they are in secondary standards.
“These students have to travel through Koyana backwater by a private boat from Khirkhindi to Shembadi and then further travel four kilometres through the forest on foot,” read the affidavit.
The HC has kept the petition for further hearing on June 16.