The road built with resilience: When women came together and constructed a 2km lifeline in Bihar

By Prarthana Mitra

What do you get when you put a failed system, approaching monsoons and a group of strong-willed women together? A road.

Help looked unlikely to arrive for the roughly 2000 residents of Bihar’s Nima, Jorarpur and Durgapur villages, who have been struggling to travel long distances without proper roads for years. With the local municipality turning a deaf ear to their pleas and grievances and with the monsoon fast-approaching, the women in these villages decided to take matter into their own hands, and banded together to build a road that runs for two kilometres, within a span of three days.

Here’s what happened

In the absence of an approach road to their hamlets, the residents in and around Banka district were facing innumerable hardships, which were likely to increase manifold once the monsoons set in.

Refusing to take it lying down, around 130 women from the district, both homemakers and working women, came together to build the road. This road will now act as a lifeline, not only providing relief from floods, but also help pregnant women in the village during medical emergencies.

The lack of a functional road has since long created grave and genuine problems for the inhabitants, sometimes even causing death.

“We could not even get to the block headquarters, hardly 2.5 km from our village. Many deaths have occurred—especially of pregnant women—as they could not reach the health centres in time,” informed a local resident in an interview with The Telegraph.

Why you should care

The lackadaisical nature of rural governance and development in India is well-known.

Despite receiving yearly allocations meant for infrastructure and transport systems, the concerned departments often choose to be unresponsive. This is despite receiving repeated complaints and fatalities. Public development works often begin with great gusto, but fail to see the light of the day. The same is believed to have happened in Banka, according to some women behind the construction project.

Part of the problem also lies with the landowners, who refuse to part with their land. “Some three-four years ago, the local administration did initiate land acquisition to build a road but due to protests by landowners the plan had to be abandoned,” said Jhalo Devi, a Nima resident.

The Banka district administration praised the efforts of these women, acknowledging that it was impossible for the government to acquire the land from the private owners.

However, they did succumb to the unwavering determination of these women, letting the crew toil to build a road through their lands.  District Magistrate Kundan Kumar said that it was due to the intervention and initiative of these industrious women that the same landowners came around.

Along with a few men, they set to work and overcame all obstacles in their path, thus paving a new one for their community.

They got the job done when no one else could.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius