DIKHOWMUKH (SIVASAGAR), July 3 � They are neither refugees, nor suspected immigrants of a foreign country. They belong to the indigenous population, who were internally displaced by the massive flood and erosion caused by the mighty Brahmaputra river.
Nineteen families, who have been taking temporary shelter on the Barpathar embankment here since two years back, are still living without any access to potable water and sanitation in the south-western part of Sivasagar district despite the availability of several government schemes to provide basic amenities to the needy and internally displaced people across the district.
Due to the lack of toilets, open defecation is rampant in the area. The arduous task of fetching drinking water from ponds located at a great distance in Teliatonga and Krishnachiga villages is a daily chore even for the elderly. The people here are mainly engaged as daily wage workers on agricultural fields owned by other villagers.
�What you have seen here is also the case at another place called Garchiga Mothauri, where some other displaced people from our village are living like us. All of us originally hailed from the resource-rich Rupohimukh area, which was devastated by floods and large-scale erosion in 2013,� said Animai Kalita, a mother of two.
Her neighbours � Junu and Nayanmoni Kalita � rued that they watch the advertisements of government schemes for drinking water and sanitation only on the television. �Nothing has been done to provide drinking water to us in the past two years. No government officer has come to this place. Some NGO representatives came here after our displacement and helped us in making these bamboo huts,� said Junu Kalita.
Some bamboo huts were damaged a few days ago as these could not withstand the monsoon showers. More rainfall has been recorded in June in comparison to that recorded in the same month last year.
Though two tube wells were installed by some youths hailing from the nearby villages, the water from these wells is suspected to be contaminated by fluoride and arsenic. The villagers stopped drinking water from these tube wells as some children and breast-feeding mothers suffered from fever after consuming it.
They alleged that neither their MP, Kamakhya Tasa, nor the local MLA, Anjan Dutta (who is also the president of the APCC), has set foot here to address their problems.
�We are not refugees. We are indigenous people who participate in every election. Though some members of different political parties came to woo us just before the Lok Sabha elections, no one has been paying heed to our woes. Neither MP Tasa, nor MLA Dutta has visited this area,� complained another woman.
When contacted, the Block Development Officer (BDO) of the Gaurisagar Development Block admitted that their officials were not aware of the condition of these people though they belong to the same development block.
�I will talk to the officials of the Public Health Department and others concerned to take effective measures to provide these villagers drinking water and sanitation facilities,� said Dilip Gogoi, BDO of the Gaurisagar Development Block. He added that the rehabilitation of these families would surely be done by the administration in future.
Expressing concern over the utter negligence towards these flood- and erosion-hit families, several local youths of Dikhowmukh area said it was a case of extreme deprivation.
�Deprivation is a nagging issue here despite the tall claims of development made by the Government. We request the authorities concerned to compel the government officers to do something for these people,� said environmental activist Hiren Dutta of Dikhowmukh. A local scribe, Nabajyoti Ojha said that a rights body should take up the issue and compel government departments to initiate appropriate steps to provide relief to these families as early as possible.