JEYPORE: Nestled in the lap of dense forests is Ramgada village, one of the most inaccessible pockets in Koraput. Home to the primitive hill tribe of Paraja, the village presents a picture of unmatched scenic beauty as well as the neglect of its people by the State.Basic amenities like roads, healthcare, safe drinking water and quality education are a far cry for around 260 members of 50 tribal households in the village under Jeypore block. This lack of development even after more than 70 years of the country’s Independence speaks volumes about the intent of political parties that have been elected to power.
The only way to reach the village is to take a five-km steep hiking trek from Chatidiput railway station that takes around four hours, the reason why Paraja has remained cut-off from the mainstream over the years. Without a proper road, the villagers have to trek down through the dense forest to reach Rondapali and Kumuliput, situated on the foothills, for their daily needs. The communication hurdle is a reason why Government officials hardly ever visit the village.
The nearest hospital is at Jeypore, around 12 km from Ramgada. Ailing patients and pregnant women being carried on slings or cot in the hilly terrains to avail medical services is a regular affair. “There are several instances when pregnant women delivered midway while being taken to the hospital,” said Gouri, a villager. Getting potable water is an uphill task for villagers. The tribals depend on nearby streams to meet their needs round the year as the only dug well in the village is often found dry. Though Ramgada has a primary school and an Angwanwadi centre, the quality of education imparted is dismal.
Lack of communication has also made employment opportunities inaccessible for Ramgada’s youths. The only income they generate is from selling firewood collected from the forests in nearby Balaput and RondaPali areas. Dambu Batbai, a local youth, said they earn up to `200 by selling a bundle of firewood in the nearby markets.
Only a handful of villagers, who venture downhill to Rondapali and Kumuliput for livelihood options, are aware of the ensuing elections. A majority have no knowledge about party candidates or symbols. Though 120 voters figure in the electoral list, many of them have not seen any political leaders or candidates in their lifetimes. The villagers said local representatives of political parties show their face only during elections to seek their votes. In the last polls, Ramgada had voted for the ruling BJD hoping for a change of fortune. But the situation, unfortunately, has not improved.
Seventy six-year-old Dasarathi Muduli said, “The situation in Ramgada has remained same since I was a child. Signs of development, both social and economical, have never been seen in the village in all these years.”In the last panchayat polls, only 50 per cent voters, mostly young tribals, had exercised their franchise while the elderly had abstained from voting as they thought the entire exercise was futile. “Why should we vote when we don’t even have a house?” rued Kausalya Muduli, an elderly woman in Ramgada.
Adding to the frustration of villagers, the nearest polling booth is situated in Rondapali school, around 10 km from Ramgada. This has further discouraged the tribals from taking part in the electoral process.
District officials said a proposal has been made to construct a road from Randapali to Tarapani village to connect Ramgada. However, it is yet to get forest clearance.