Monday, April 7, 2008

Whose life is it anyway?

Families displaced by the projects have not been treated as human beings. Villages like Machaguda, Maliguda, Gellaguda, Malaguda, and Kaliajad showed tribal leading a tough life with out education, drinking water, medical and housing facilities.

THE TRIBALS in Jeypore subdivision of this Koraput district are still uncivilised. Living in 64 villages declared as reserved forest area under Boipariguda block, mainly depending on "Podu cultivation" and despite the claims of the government of ameliorating their plight, these tribal are being exploited by politicians, officers and businessmen alike in the sale and purchase of forest produce.

A recent visit to the tribal populated villages Machaguda, Maliguda, Gellaguda, Malaguda, and Kaliajad as showed that the tribal are leading a hand to mouth existence in the absence of basic facilities like education, drinking water, medical and housing facilities. According to survey conducted by a group of journalist their population, which is about more than 5557 live in 64 villages, once before independence these tribal, who are living in reserved forest depending on forest and cultivation.

Unfortunately the illiteracy, innocence of these tribal contributed their lands for Machkunda Hydro Electric Project expecting to get light to their residential quarters. At the time of composite Madras state and prior to the formation of the Orissa state a comprehensive report was done by Sir, Henry Hewerd in 1931, with the formation of Orissa state in the year 1936 the Machkund River become the boundary for Madras and Orissa. Field surveys and investigations of the scheme were started in 1941. Subsequently, after the formation of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have agreed to share the power for the benefit of urbanites without sharing the problems of the tribals those who have contributed their lands, forest and the villages where they live-in.

The first stage of the electric scheme with three units of 17 Molecular Weight (MW) each was inaugurated on August 19, 1955 by our first President of Republic of India Dr.Rajendra Prasad. About 10,000 Paraja, Godaba, Kondh tribals lost their lands, forest and number of tribal families has been displaced. The state government is having no records and doesn’t even seem to take interest to find out the families displaced by the first Machkunda Hydro Power Project in the district and earliest one probability in India. Many families settled in Andhra Pradesh living on the top of the hills in Visakhapatnam agency area, who are neither the citizens of Andhra Pradesh nor of Orissa.

It is almost a separate story. One of the villages visited by this writer out of five villages (visited) Gellaguda is very interesting story, where in 84 families belonging to Gadaba tribe live-in. The villagers, earlier before construction of Machkunda Power Project are the residents of Gellaguda for, which again after displacement it was, renamed Gellaguda to remember the birthplace.

Gellaguda is one of the villages like other 64 villages developed under Ramagiri Gram Panchayat, reserved forest area immediately after their displacement by Machkunda Power Project. The tribals developed the villages found no difference in between their earlier birth places (Reserved Forest Area) and Ramagiri Reserved Forest area. In a latter stage within past 15 years the "Timber Mafias" with the help of forest officials reduced 50 per cent of the Reserved Forest Area into plain cultivable land (a Vigilance cases against forest officials and Timber Mafias are pending), but the entire Ramagiri area recorded as Reserved Forest area.

The area once again concentrated by the Timber based multinational companies, and started planting Eucalyptus plantation with the help of forest officers even on standing Paddy crops belonging to the tribals and reduced them like baggers. Soniya Godaba is one of the five native doctors working in the village. He gets more number of malaria cases and cure even chronic diseases and gets on average Rs 10/- per day.

There is a school without schoolteacher and students. The government offices also provided one below poverty line card to one Danu Gadaba and the other one to another Adu Godaba out of 84 families, who are under poverty line. Padama Godaba is another native lady doctor, who is expert in curing female diseases and delivery cases besides she knows all type of "Tantrik education" (witchcraft, blind belief). She can keep even the powerful devil to prevent the entry inside the village, she said, but she is blind, another 75 years lady Sama Gadaba is blind remembered and expressed the way her family was displaced, the third one Samara Godaba is more than 70 years but become deaf due to roaring sound of using the blasting materials at the time of project construction. She is still unmarried all the three ladies are counting their early days and last days too.

Padama Gadaba native doctor is blind another old lady Soma Godaba is blind and so is the government. It also seems to be mute like Samara Godaba. Another village Purna Pani is also a remote village about 12Km from Ramagiri Grama Panchayat headquarters. The villages can be reached only on foot through a narrow beaten track. A 20 years girl holding two children looks like a skeleton. It seems the survival of the newborn kid is bit difficult. The mother is an anaemic and the kid is malnourished they too received no benefit from the government.

When contacted the revenue officials who wants to be anonymous for fear of official wrath, hag conformed the ignorance to provide basic amenities and the political leaders forced them to issue first photo identity cards only for the purpose to win in the election with number of false promises. But immediately after being elected they forget the promises given to them.

In fact the undivided Koraput district is the second biggest district in India next to undivided Bastar district in Madhya Pradesh. It is having two Parliamentary constituencies reserved for tribal seats. One is Nowrangpur constituency, which represented more than eight times by one Khagapati Pradhna, under whose constituency these villages fall and the present MP is Parsuram Majhi.

The second, Koraput Parliamentary constituency is represented by Giridhari Gomango elected more than seven times, under whose constituency the Machkunda Power Project falls. When this scribe contacted him more than six times, he clearly said that he was representing the constituency only to protect the tribal culture and music. But that he had no time to visit the villages to know the difficulties, he has gone even up to the extent of telling that the people vote for his shoes and why I should move to the area for the development.

All the 64 villages are symbol of utter official neglect. The villagers live a wretched life of hunger, disease and misery. Some leaders say there are Hundreds of Gellaguda in undivided Koraput district. Some villagers that this scribe met on the way to Gellaguda say the political leaders, elected representatives and the district administrative officers visited us, promised us to provide facilities and left, but our miseries continue.

The tribals living in all the four divided districts of undivided Koraput district is one and the same. Fate has never ceased to be ironical for the helpless inhabited. They were in the reserved forest accustomed and were in the dark before independence. Their condition has not changed much, as they are still in the dark. It is what the development of undivided Koraput, Bolangir and Kalahandi, the so called KBK districts, where infamous starvation deaths, sale of children very much prevalent keeping them in darkness after 60 years of independence.

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