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Indian village paves way to love

By Amarnath Tewary in western Bihar

Villagers building a new road in Bihar shoving a big stone ahead of them
The bachelor villagers are determined

More than 100 unmarried villagers in India's Bihar state are working flat out to build a 6km (3.7-mile) road to help their efforts to get married.

The village of Barwaan Kala, in the west of Bihar, is located high in the Kaimur hills and is known locally as the "village of unmarried people".

Some 121 villagers aged between 16 and 80 remain bachelors, they say, because of the remoteness of the village.

The last wedding in the village was reportedly 50 years ago.

"Even those who have managed to get married have done it surreptitiously by taking temporary shelter in the less remote villages of their relatives," Ram Chand Kharwar, a 50-year-old bachelor, told the BBC.

Apart from the inaccessibility of Barwaan Kala, outsiders are also fearful of Maoist militants who operate in the area.

Amenities are in short supply - of the six village hand water pumps none is working and a government school has no teacher.

The nearest police station and hospital are both 45km (28 miles) away.

Without development, many families refuse to agree to marry off their daughters to prospective husbands from the area.

Broken 'promise'

"The biggest problem for us and for outsiders is the difficult hilly terrain to pass through," said 40-year-old bachelor Ram Lal Yadav ruefully.

Social workers such as Chandrama Singh Yadav say that the reason for the high number of bachelors is not because they lack eligibility but because there is no approach road to the village.

Bihar politician, Ram Chandra Singh Yadav
I tried my best to highlight the issue
Ram Chandra Singh Yadav MLA(Photo: Paras Nath)

The unmarried villagers were given hope that their access to potential partners would be eased during the last state assembly elections when, for the first time since independence, a party candidate on the campaign trail visited them.

Ram Chandra Singh Yadav assured the village of 1,500 people that he too would not get married unless he could get a road for them.

Believing his words, the villagers backed Mr Yadav in his successful campaign to win election in 2005.

But, after winning, the new Member of the Legislative Assembly not only got married the next year but, in the villagers' eyes, added insult to injury by making the event a gala affair.

He is now the proud father of a two-year-old daughter.

When the villagers approached him to remind him of his promise to them, they say he asked them if they really believed that he too should remain a bachelor forever.

The young newly-elected MLA sought to explain his actions.

"I tried my best to highlight the issue; even in state assembly I raised the issue of the village six times in the last three years. Moreover, we cannot do it on our own as the area falls under a wildlife protected zone," Mr Yadav told the BBC.

What the villagers are doing is unlawful activity... we will take all necessary action
Forest officer RK Ram

He also claimed to be a victim of a ploy to defame him by a rival political leader.

However, the villagers have now decided to take the law into their own hands.

Armed with shovels, chisels, hammers, spades and other tools, the bachelors of the Barwaan Kala village are getting on with the job of constructing the road by themselves.

In the past month-and-a-half, they have already laid a 3km (1.8 miles) stretch of road on the hilly terrain.

As one group of them shoves big boulders aside, another group hammers them into small stone chips to lay the road. Work is in progress around the clock.

Legal hurdle

Only 3km more remain to be laid to connect the village to the rest of the Bhabhua district.

"We'll make it very soon and then we can hope to get married one day like others," said a prospective bridegroom, Sheo Kharwar, 28.

Indian villagers raise their tools in the air to celebrate their road building effort
'We will not rest until we construct the road'

That optimism is shared by Rohit Yadav, Ram Lal, Prachari Kharwar, Dev Nath, Rajgriha, Ram Ashish and other bachelors who are working on paving the new passage to the outside world.

Once the road is constructed, the current circuitous route of about 40km (25 miles) will be drastically reduced and at least 10,000 people from 10 surrounding villages in the sub-district will benefit, according to former village head Ram Dayal.

Unfortunately, there may still be a big legal hurdle in the way of the men's mission to increase the number of weddings in the village.

The area is within a wildlife protected zone, where road construction has to meet strict guidelines.

"What the villagers are doing is an unlawful activity under the Supreme Court directive. We will take all necessary action," said district forest officer RK Ram.

But the bachelor villagers are determined to complete their project.

"Come what may, we will not rest until we construct the entire 6km road," they said in unison, as they raised their construction tools up in the air.

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