CUTTACK: Tunia Dehuri of Banjhiamba village in Mangarajpur gram panchayat has little knowledge of elections and the hype and hoopla surrounding it.The 65-year-old woman is among the 150 tribals residing in the village, which is cut-off from the mainstream. For the villagers, Dalijoda forest is their country and they have no inkling of what lies beyond. Banjhiamba comes under Athagarh Assembly segment which will go to polls in the third phase on April 23.
Even as electioneering has reached its peak in the constituency, not a single banner or poster can be found in the village. Its residents, most of whom are illiterate, do not know the names of candidates in fray from the seat. 28-year-old Anand Dehuri, a resident of the village is not aware of the candidates, their political parties and even symbols. “We do not know who are contesting the elections. Nobody has so far approached us for votes,” said Hemant Dehuri and Sunei Dehuri of the village.
During the last panchayat elections, the sarpanch candidate for Mangarajpur gram panchayat Sasmita Parida had come to the village. She made some promises and after winning never came back, they said. “We are least concerned about elections. Generally, some supporters of the contesting candidates come to our locality a day or two before the date of polling. They arrange feasts, provide foreign liquor and offer money to cast votes in their favour,” said Sankar Dehuri and Mathura Dehuri adding they cast vote in favour of those who offer more.
With no facility for a booth in the village, the more than 80 voters of Banjhiamba have to walk 14 km in the forest to reach Kochila Nuagan to exercise their franchise. The villagers depend on Kochila Nuagan avail their ration old age and widow pension and other benefits. Absence of cellular network means they cannot use mobile phones. The village does not have a school or Anganwadi.
The Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys (IMFA) had opened a ‘gramin pathshala’ as part of its CSR activity. However, the facility has remained closed for the last three months. Lack of motorable road does not allow Ambulance to reach Banjhiamba and patients are carried on slings to nearby hospitals. The tribal residents depend on forest products for their sustenance. “We have not yet been able to avail gas connection under Ujala scheme, housing under Bjiu Pucca Ghar Yojana and financial assistance under KALIA scheme,” said Sara Dehuri.
After much hue and cry, a few solar lights were provided to the village under Saubhagya scheme in January this year. Interestingly, sitting Cuttack MP Bhatruhari Mahatab had adopted Mangarajpur gram panchayat under Sansad Adarsh Grama Yojana. Yet the plight of Banjhiamba residents has not even changed a bit.
Meanwhile, Tangi-Choudwar BDO Binod Senapati said does not have any information on MPLAD funds utilised for the village.