Children of a village, 5km from Dholpur, collect coins from the Chambal river, risking their lives to possible crocodile attacks.
Rajghat village, where some scenes of Bollywood movies ‘Bandit Queen’ and ‘Pan Singh Tomar’ were shot, is located near an overbridge on the Chambal, where people going in buses and other vehicles throw coins into the river waters.
The overbridge comes on the national highway-3 that connects Dholpur, the home district of chief minister Vasundhara Raje, to Morena in Madhya Pradesh.
Children, aged between 7 and 15 years, go to the river below the bridge two times a day to collect coins. Crocodile attacks on cattle and people have been reported from this place.
The children enter river waters on truck tubes, connected with magnets in long ropes — magnets attract the metallic coins. They hide themselves behind pillars of the bridge when police reach there to stop them from entering the river.
“I earn around Rs 50-100 after collecting coins two times a day,” said 13-year-old Mukesh Nishad.
Lekhraj Nishad, a Class 8 student, said, “Our parents don’t allow us to go to the river, but we go there when they are busy in their work. Whatever we earn from the river, we hand it over to our families.”
Bablu Nishad, 15, said, “We are not afraid of crocodiles because they generally move away after seeing black tubes. We know swimming in case we fall from the tubes.”
Despite assurances by ministers and officials, development has eluded the village – no electricity, drinking water and roads – that comes under ward 15 of the Dholpur municipal council.
About 300 voters of the village, belonging to Mallah community, are daily-wage labourers. The village has a government primary school with 36 students.
Most of the youths are bachelors as people don’t want to marry off their daughters in the village because of its backwardness.
Rajesh Nishad, 33, said, “Many ministers and officials had come here during the Dholpur by-election in April, and assured us of development.”
Hariom Nishad said, “Ministers had come here to seek votes for the BJP candidate but after the win, they didn’t return to fulfil their commitments. Ministers in fact came here when villagers had decided to boycott the polls.”
The chief minister, villagers said, assured them during the by-election that development work would be executed within one and a half years.
Dholpur collector Shuchi Tyagi said, “We have visited the village. I have forwarded proposals to senior officials to provide electricity, water and road to the village.”
He said, “In the first phase, we are trying to install solar lights and supply water. Proposals were sent to power and water resources departments. Villagers will get light and water soon.”
Locals expressed anger against government representatives, saying they were ignored at public hearings conducted by ministers.
Satyapal Singh, a schoolteacher, said, “Villagers are forced to bring water for drinking from the river where dead bodies float. According to rituals in Madhya Pradesh, bodies of people, who die when they are below 18 years, are put in river water.”
Crocodiles take cattle into the river after attacking them but locals have no other option than taking bath in the water and using it for drinking, he said.