Residents of erosion-hit Odisha villages walk 20 km to vote

The state government in 2018 rehabilitated 577 sea erosion-hit families of Satabhaya panchayat at Bagapatia rehabilitation colony.
The voters crossed the crocodile-infested Bausagali river on the day to cast their votes.
The voters crossed the crocodile-infested Bausagali river on the day to cast their votes. Photo | Express

KENDRAPARA: Around 300 voters of sea erosion-hit Satabhaya and Magarkandha villages walked around 20 km to and from the polling booth at the rehabilitation colony in Bagapatia to exercise their franchise on Saturday.

The 12 km stretch of the beach at Satabhaya gram panchayat is believed to be the ‘fastest eroding’ beach of the state’s coast. More than 600 homes and large tracts of agricultural land have been wiped away by the advancing waters in the last 40 years. Satabhaya panchayat used to be a cluster of seven villages. Now, only a little portion of the panchayat remains. Six other villages - Gobindapur, Mohanpur, Chintamanipur, Badagahiramatha, Kanhupur and Kharikula have been swallowed by the hungry sea. Around 50 families of Satabhaya settled in Magarkandha village a few kilometre from Satabhaya after the marching sea gobbled up their houses.

The state government in 2018 rehabilitated 577 sea erosion-hit families of Satabhaya panchayat at Bagapatia rehabilitation colony. But the authorities are yet to rehabilitate around 115 families which reside in Satabhaya and nearby hamlet Magarakandha. The voters crossed the crocodile-infested Bausagali river on the day to cast their votes.

“We used to vote in Satabhaya. But the authorities shifted the polling booths to the rehabilitation colony at Bagapatia as the sea consumed our village. The muddy road from Satabhaya to Bagapatia is not motorable due to which we walked 20 km to cast our votes,” said Santosh Behera (56) of Satabhaya.

Mahendra Mallick of Magarakandha said he resides in a thatched house near the sea after he was refused land by the government at Bagapatia. “The right to vote is enshrined and guaranteed to all citizens by our Constitution for which I walked along with other villagers to cast my vote at Bagapatia. Our names are included in the electoral rolls as voters of Satabhaya. But we are all landless people as the sea consumed our houses. We possess only photo identity and Aadhaar cards which have addresses of houses which no longer exist on the map,” he said. Tehsildar of Rajnagar, Ajay Kumar Mohanty said, the other families of Satabhaya will soon be rehabilitated.

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