PHULBANI: Lives of five innocent tribals were a heavy price that villagers of the remote Gumudumaha village in Baliguda block of Kandhamal district had to pay to see the face of development that was elusive till the gruesome incident took place in July last year.
This development, though, has been half-baked.On July 8 night last year, a squad of the Special Operation Group gunned down five tribals in Gumudumaha during an anti-Maoist operation. While State Police claimed that the tribals were caught in the crossfire with Maoists, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes claimed that it was not a crossfire. Villagers had said they were sitting in the auto-rickshaw when firing started all of a sudden. They shouted that they were not Maoists but the firing continued for 15 minutes, claiming lives of five persons, including three women and a child besides, injuring seven.
Villagers hoped for a better future when government officials and politicians cutting across party lines thronged Gumudumaha following the incident with promises of development.
Principal secretaries of four government departments visited the village and found out that the villagers are in need of basic necessities. They directed the district administration to provide a motorable road, drinking water and electricity to every household in the village. Work was started on a war-footing and Gumudumaha got an approach road and electricity.
The Rural Development Department constructed an 11-km-long road from Kurtamagarh to Gumudumaha at a cost of `2.38 crore. This road, however, is of no use for villagers now. Instead of a pucca road, a kutcha one was constructed and after the recent showers, a portion has been washed away and the rest has turned into a muddy, slippery stretch. “Till monsoon subsides, we cannot use this dangerously slippery road. Even during emergency, an ambulance cannot reach the village and we have to walk for 11 km to reach the main road,” said a villager Tepra Mallick.
Assistant Engineer of the department K S Pradhan said the pucca road was a temporary arrangement and a permanent one would be constructed soon.A couple of months back, 44 families in the village were provided power connection but the households rarely get electricity due to low voltage problem. Assistant Engineer of Southco Harihara Dutta said unless the grid at K Nuagaon is made functional, voltage problem will persist.
The acute drinking water problem in the village, though, has been solved to a certain extent. Four hand pumps have been installed in the village and to provide water to every household, a project has been planned and tender floated, said Assistant Engineer of RWSS, Amit Sethi. He added that a bathroom with attached latrine will be constructed for every household in the village and work would be implemented by Gram Vikas.
While all the families have been included under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana, Peterenga Mallick, husband of deceased Bimbuli Mallick, and Tempu Mallick who had sustained injuries in the incident, have not received housing funds under any of these two schemes. Financial compensation has been provided to all those injured and kin of the deceased.
Like development, inquiry into the killings has not been completed so far. The State Government appointed Justice Janab Mohammed Ajmal Commission of Inquiry to probe into the killings.
The Commission has so far recorded testimony of 19 witnesses. It will take another six months to complete the inquiry, said special prosecutor of the Commission Bijay Kurshna Pattnaik.