Belthangady, a tiny panchayat town in Karnataka, consists of many villages, of which one is Shishila. In this village, Balakrishna Shishila, a 32-year-old man, runs a small shop.
Ever so often, Balakrishna would hear stories of children dropping out of school from his village. The reason was the collapse of a bridge across the mighty Kapila river. Seeing this, Balakrishna decided to take matters into his own hands, and build a bridge reports the News Minute.
In fact, Balakrishna went a step ahead and decided to use his savings to fund this initiative.
Balakrishna had to quit school in Class 7, owing to family circumstances. It would, however, pain him, to see other children drop out of school as well, due to the lack of connectivity.
Speaking to The News Minute, he said, “[The] lives of over 15 families depend on the bridge. Earlier, areca stumps and other temporary structures were laid as a bridge. But the heavy rains that lashed region destroyed the bridge. The village was stranded during the rains, and all pleas to panchayat officials to have a permanent bridge constructed fell on deaf ears.”
That is when he decided to step up. With the help of around ten other people, started building the bridge in mid-July. He took cues from his childhood when he used to build swings using wood and ropes.
Balakrishna and his team collected ropes, metal and bark from local trees, and successfully built the bridge. The entire endeavour cost Balakrishna around Rs 30,000 from his savings, something that he spent despite having a family of five to look after.
The 35-metre long bridge itself was built at the height of 15-metres and is 3 metres wide. It is a true boon to the villagers, who would earlier walk through the water to get to the other side of the village.
The presence of the bridge has seen the whole village come out in Balakrishna’s support. Speaking to TNM about this, Krishna Prakash, a resident of Shishila, said, “We were worried about the lack of connectivity, especially in the case of medical emergencies. Now, we can move about thanks to this bridge.”
The rains haven’t done Belthangady well, and village life has become tough. Roads are completely damaged, and the panchayat turned a blind eye, while the villagers themselves pooled in money to fix their roads, said Balakrishna.
It is a bittersweet victory for Karnataka’s Balakrishna. No doubt, the locals hail him as a hero, but he is yet to recover the cost of the bridge. While he received support from the village panchayat during the initial days, there is no guarantee when he will get reimbursed.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)