DHENKANAL: ‘Development’ is a buzzword used by political parties. More so, when elections are round the corner. However, the ground reality reflects a stark irony. The four tribal villages of Tumusingha gram panchayat are a case in point. Belonging to Parjang Assembly constituency, these hamlets await basic amenities such as road connectivity, drinking water and primary schools.
The villagers have been consistently casting votes despite Government’s apathy. Lack of booths in the villages has not deterred them from exercising their democratic rights. The villages, situated 35 km from the district headquarters, are Mahuldagar, Raghubole, Dankabole and Field Sahi, with almost 110 families and 280 voters. “We walk through the forest for 7 km to cast vote in Tumusingha booths during every election. Though we have 200 voters in the villages, no polling booth has been set up,” said Jayanti Sikra, a member of Ward number 2.
On the issue of development, the villagers said even basic welfare services are a far cry for them. “We walk for 6 km to collect our quota of rice and old age pension. For health assistance, we walk for 7 km to reach the nearest hospital,” said Rabi Hembrum, a villager.
To alleviate the issue of drinking water, a development organisation facilitated a solar-based water project at Mahuldagar village in May 2015. Prior to that, women used to walk for 3 km to collect drinking water. However, when the solar water project became dysfunctional six months ago, no attention was given despite repeated complaints, said Madan Hembrum, another villager.
When the then Collector Roopa Roshan Sahoo visited the villages, the tribals demanded road connectivity to the panchayat headquarters, upgradation of the primary school and implementation of livelihood projects. Their demands are yet to be fulfilled.
“Almost all children are Class V dropouts as the primary school has no higher classes. Children are reluctant to walk along the forested path for about 6 km to attend high school in Tumusingha panchayat. Remote distance and scare of wild animals while commuting have deterred children from attending school. We have been demanding upgradation of the local school up to Class X but to little avail,” said Sirka.
Other problems plaguing the villagers are absence of nutritional programmes causing a spike in the percentage of malnourished children and absence of health outreach initiatives by the district administration.
On setting up of booths, Kamakshyanagar Sub-Collector Bishnu Prasad Achraya said they cannot take any action now as the decision on booths was taken last year.