NORTH LAKHIMPUR, June 3 - Suren Saikia, a resident of Kulabil village on the river island on Ranganadi, was ferrying his family for a religious function at a naamghar on the right side of an embankment on May 31 morning on a small hand-oared boat. It was just like any ordinary day of his daily activity to cross a stretch of less than 100 feet of the river. But a sudden increase in the water level, caused by release of water by NEEPCO�s hydrolectrical power dam in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, and its speedy current capsized the boat when they were half way through.
Though the other members of his family could somehow save themselves, his daughter Pallavi Saikia (32) and granddaughter Moonmi Saikia (2) were swept away by the surging waters. The tragedy which occurred just seven kms north-west of North Lakhimpur, the district headquarter has revealed a story of a neglected area which still has no connectivity and basic amenities of life.
Four villages � Kulabil No.1 and No. 2, Panchnoi and Dejo Chapori, located on the right side of the Rangandi river were transformed into an island following the flood havoc of 2008 attributed to the release of dam waters by the NEEPCO�s Ranganadi Hydroelectrical Power Project at Yazali, Arunachal Pradesh.
The flood of 2008 widened the two other small rivers � Zoihing and Kimin that confluence in that area with the excess waters of Ranganadi. The illegal sand mining by some villagers also contributed towards the widening of the river separating the four villages from the right hand side of Ranganadi river. Since then the residents of these four villages have been forced to use boats to cross the river for all purposes.
In 2014, the State PWD started constructing a bridge to connect the four villages with North Lakhimpur. But due to reasons unknown to the villagers, the construction stopped after some initial works. To meet their daily communication with the town, the villagers had constructed a bamboo bridge over the river on the same spot. But unfortunately that bridge too was swept away on May 31. After crossing the river to the island on boat, this correspondent found the four villages devoid of all basic amenities from roads to toilets, drinking water facilities to health care. The four villages, which fall under Dejo Gaon Panchayat of Nowboicha Revenue Circle has a population of 2000 villagers, who have not been able to avail any government schemes and services. There are six schools � four LP schools, one ME school and one high school. The teachers coming from outside the village have the daily ordeal of crossing the river by boats twice a day. The four villages have only four toilets provided by Public Health Engineering department for which the rest of the villagers have no option but to go for open defecation. Only one tube well was provided by the PHE in the last five years in this river island where the availability of pure drinking water is a dream for its residents. The villagers are forced to drink water from kachha wells.
This river island of four villages on Ranganadi belongs of 110 Nowboicha LAC though it is very close to 111 Lakhimpur LAC. Though for school and college education, health care and daily buying and selling, the villagers cross the river to North Lakhimpur town, for any other official matter they have to travel to Nowboicha, which is far away. The area is neglected by the elected representatives of both the LACs.
The villagers here demand only a bridge to connect them to North Lakhimpur town. The State PWD minister was approached by the villagers in April this year to complete the construction of the RCC bridge. But their demands are yet to be fulfilled.