Deprived of basics, tribal villagers in Banki vow to boycott polls

The housing schemes of both the Centre and the state government are yet to benefit them. Their damaged houses, which have no windows or doors, are covered with polythene sheets.
A group of thatched houses at Dholakatha village in Cuttack district
A group of thatched houses at Dholakatha village in Cuttack districtPhoto | Express

CUTTACK (PANCHAPADA): Deprived of government benefits, over 850 tribal voters of Panchapada-Dholakatha, Nuakua, Behenta Sahi, Dahani Gadi and Pitha Khia under Banki Assembly segment have threatened to boycott the elections.

At least 340 tribal families, including 85 in Dholakatha, 18 in Nuakua, 55 in Behenta Sahi, 90 in Dahani Gadi and 92 in Pitha Khia reside in the five villages which is collectively called Panchapada situated in a 7-km radius within the jurisdiction of the Chandaka-Dampara wildlife sanctuary.

The residents of the Sabar community have voter ID cards, Aadhaar cards and record of rights (RORs) containing information about both their homesteads and the agricultural land they possess. But the housing schemes of both the Centre and the state government are yet to benefit them. Their damaged houses, which have no windows or doors, are covered with polythene sheets.

“We are unable to cultivate our land due to deficit rainfall for the last five years. So there is no way of getting straw to thatch our houses. We are forced to use planks made of bamboo and other sticks or simply hang clothes to cover the open doors and windows of our houses. Though we have been leading miserable lives and have approached the local administration and MLA several times, we are yet to avail benefits of schemes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana,” said Dhirendra Naik, Mohan Majhi, Sukant Majhi and Ajit Kumar Pradhan of the village.

The administration has built four primary schools in the five villages where students from Class I to Class V study in a single room.

While two to three solar lights have been provided to each village, most of the villagers use kerosene lamps in their houses. With solar-powered pipeline drinking water failing to cater to their needs, the villagers depend on an open well dug by them.

“Different political leaders who come during each election time assure to redress our grievances. But after elections, they plead that the Forest Act is hindering the construction of concrete houses in the villages,” said locals, who convened a meeting on Wednesday and decided to boycott the poll.

Banki sub-collector Debi Prasad Mohanty said he has asked Dampada BDO to enquire about problems in the village and report initiating the necessary steps to resolve them. Dampada BDO Ansuman Mohanty, however, was not available to comment on the issue.

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