Kottayam: Those who have enjoyed the boat ride on the Kottayam-Alappuzha stretch would agree that there aren’t many such wonderful experiences available at throwaway prices. But these lovely rides are not for all to experience. The 33 km backwaters of Kerala are operated by the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD). On Friday, the SWTD came to the rescue of a Plus One student who wanted to write the exams but had no means to do so due to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown.
Sandra Sabu, a student of Kanjiram SNDP Higher Secondary School in Kottayam lives at an islet in the Vembanad backwaters almost disconnected from the mainland. It is located seven kilometres away from the regular boat channel.
When the state government announced fresh dates for the HSC exams, Sabu whose parents work as daily wage workers, thought she would have to skip them. However, the staff and management at KSWTD sensed the plight of the girl. On Friday, the department operated a 70-seat boat with just Sabu as the passenger and made a round trip so that she could write her exam.
"When the staff intimated me of the case, it reminded me of the train service in Japan. However, there was one more important reason. My daughter is also a plus one student. A 'no', in these cases, is much more safe and easy. However, I thought of how it would affect a person's life. So the department approached the higher authorities and a nod from minister AK Saseendran, it was made possible," said Shaji V Nair, Director, KSWTD, making a reference to the Sekihoku Main Line in Engaru, Hokkaido, Japan where train runs twice a day just for a single student.
"I had two exams, Physics and Chemistry. If there was no such facility, I would have missed those two. I could reach school by paying nine rupees as the boat was operated for my convenience,” Sandra told News18.
The boat came near Sandra's house at MM Block, a place near the famed Rani, Chithira and Marthanadam Paddy fields. The journey took nearly 30 minutes and hence the five staff members spent an additional hour at two trips, one to pick and the other to drop her.
"It may sound easy, but that was the case. However, top authorities responded quickly and in a positive manner and that helped the girl," said Santhosh Kumar, Alappuzha Unit officer, KSWTD.
Krishnan, a relative of Sandra, came to the village as a labourer some 45 years ago. Now his family is the only one left there as all others have deserted the place. "I am staying here as I have no other way. The pension for the agricultural labourers is my only income," he said.