Odisha: Deprived of government facilities, villagers threaten to boycott polls

Rasalpur village under Mayurbhanj’s Baliapal block have threatened to boycott the upcoming elections due to the neglect by the government in providing benefits in their constituency.
Residents taking boats to ferry across the Subarnarekha river
Residents taking boats to ferry across the Subarnarekha river Photo| Express

RASALPUR (BHOGRAI): Deprived of government benefits since the past several decades, flood-affected residents of ward nos 19, 20 ad 21 of Rasalpur village under Mayurbhanj’s Baliapal block have threatened to boycott the upcoming elections.

Sources said though the village comes under Basta constituency, ward nos 19, 20 and 21 particularly, are located near Bhograi constituency. These areas are cut off from the rest of the village due to presence of the Subarnarekha river and hence cannot avail the benefits provided by the government in their constituency.

Villagers said they had to travel around 20 km by road to reach Baliapal block via Uludu and Kalikapur in Jaleswar block, or ferry across Subarnarekha river using a boat, for any official work or to avail medical facilities. To add to the residents’ woes, despite being located near Bhograi, these wards cannot avail the benefits provided under the constituency as their residentship is under Basta.

Nirmal Das and others said around 2,500 people reside in these wards and bear the brunt of floods in Subarnarekha river every year. Also, there are no proper facilities for health, education, communication, water supply, pension for the elderly, street light arrangement etc, as all important government offices are located in Baliapal which is quite far from their areas.

“In such situations, we are forced to take a boat to reach Baliapal. Even during a medical emergency, people are forced to take a boat to reach the IDCO health centre in Baliapal as that is the only proper mode of communication,” they said.

They further complained that there are no opportunities for pursuing higher education in the localities and elderly, too, do not receive their old age pension for two to three months at a stretch, as it is difficult for them to travel to the panchayat office located faraway in Baliapal. “We had requested the block officials to come to our wards to distribute pension to the elderly but they did not pay heed,” they rued.

They said the frequent floods have devoured hectares of land forcing most families to rehabilitate elsewhere. “When Rabindra Kumar Jena was the MP, he had assured us of proper road and drinking water facilities but none has been fulfilled till date. A water supply facility was set up under Basundhara scheme to supply water to all households but it failed to reach our wards,” they said.

The villagers further informed that they had urged the district administration to let them be under Bhograi constituency as the government offices are located just 4 to 5 km away from their areas and would prove convenient for them, but their appeals are yet to be answered.

“Since all our pleas have been falling on deaf years for all these years, residents of all the three wards held a meeting recently and decided on boycotting the upcoming elections,” said Kunirani Behera, Suresh Sethi and Sibasankar Parida.

A senior official of the district administration said a big budget is needed for construction of roads as the river is situated close by. “Other problems faced by these wards will be addressed soon,” he assured.

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The New Indian Express