JHARSUGUDA: Eighty years after they were merged with Odisha in 1936, development is yet to reach the villages under 19 Khand Mouza (Enclaved village) in Lakhanpur block of Jharsuguda district.
The 40,000 villagers of the 19 Khand Mouza living on Chhattisgarh border are deprived of basic facilities.
The villagers, who depend on Chhattisgarh for their daily requirements, said they have witnessed rapid development in villages located at a stone’s throw from the border on Chhattisgarh side. Owing to lingual affinity, they have renewed their demand for merger with neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
At a meeting held at Kandheikela village of Lakhanpur block on Friday, they have decided to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Bargarh on February 21 to apprise him about their plight and demand a merger. A signature campaign too has been started.
The villagers, mostly farmers, rue that though the Enclave has Hirakud Dam Reservoir on three sides, they are denied irrigation. Claiming that they sacrificed their ancestral property for Hirakud Dam Project, the villagers said a mega lift irrigation project would redress their irrigation problems but very little has been done by Odisha Government in this regard. It is learnt that the Enclave has 14 lift irrigation points but six of those are defunct leaving the farmers at the mercy of nature. They depend on rain for agriculture, which is the mainstay of the economy of the Enclave.
Connectivity with the mainland too came late. The Enclave was not connected with the mainland of Odisha till 1988 and they had to wait for long for an approach road to the bridge. On the contrary, owing to better connectivity with Chhattisgarh, they communicate and make purchases from the other side of the border.
In a memorandum, they have urged the Prime Minister to allow the merger with Chhattisgarh if Odisha Government cannot provide irrigation to them.
Though the State Government collects taxes from them, little attention is paid to health and education sectors, which are equally hit. There is just one PHC in Chantipali of the Enclave and that too without any doctor. Villagers depend on Chhattisgarh for medical attention. Similarly, the demand for a TRW School and a college has been overlooked by the State Government.
In fact, till sometime back, the villagers using mobile phones had to pay roaming charges as the calls were routed through Chhattisgarh while many others used SIM cards obtained from that State.
While Jharsuguda District Collector Parameswaram B could not be reached, former MLA of Brajrajnagar Assembly segment and present Chairman of Odisha Lift Irrigation Corporation Anup Sai accused the BJP of promoting divisive politics to defame the BJD Government.