GOALPARA, April 25 - Getting a decent life in the rural countryside of Goalpara district has become a major challenge and one cannot ignore the pitiable economic condition of these villagers even if one closes his eyes. But here the perception of poverty relates not only to the standard of living or the amount of assets of the households but also to the accessibility of the people to various public services, employment and food. These places have suffered from successive State governments� sheer apathy and neglect and corruption here rules the roost.
This correspondent had an opportunity to visit Bhaiskhuli, Dasarapara Matia, Kurowa Bhasa, Goraimari, Garo Kuta and Genderapara under Kalyanpur village of Balijana revenue circle which is about 30 minutes drive south east from Goalpara town.
The first hand experience was annoying. The poverty and underdevelopment in these areas, even though it is very close to the district headquarters, hits you starkly. Approximately 6000 people belonging to the Rabha tribe inhabit this area. This is a tribal area which is under the Rabha Hajong Autonomous Council (RHAC) and under Kalyanpur panchayat. Most of the people primarily depend on subsistence farming and fishing in the nearby Urpad Beel for their liveilihood while some youths have migrated to other prosperous regions of the country in search of work.
The first feeling of this correspondent was of disappointment because even though several government development schemes have been implemented in some of the areas, poverty alleviation has remained a distant dream. Also, taking advantage of the lack of awareness and illiteracy of these villagers, which seems to be acting as barriers against development, rampant corruption has played a key role in negating the social as well as economic gains from the schemes that are basically routed through the Block office, DRDA and now the Panchayat. This was informed to this correspondent by a cross-section of villagers. They also informed that the area suffers from shortage of clean drinking water and people have to draw water from unhygienic kutcha wells, there is total lack of employment opportunities, there is no electricity or access to health care facilities and no development of rural roads, thus affecting the overall quality of life.
Again Baidamburi having around 60 households with a population of around 350 has yet to reap benefits from Swachh Bharat Mission. Strangely, most of the people here still defecate in the open and the area has been overlooked totally as till now only two single household latrines have been sanctioned in the area recently.
Talking to this correspondent, a villager Ishan Rabha said that most of the people living here belong to the below poverty line (BPL) category, but they have been denied benefits from schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana where the beneficiaries� list has been allegedly manipulated as only five houses have been allotted this year. Same is the case under Ujwala Yojana and also under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana and the list is endless, Rabha added. He also informed that most of the villagers have job cards but not a single day�s work contrary to the government�s tall promises of providing 100 mandays work under various employment generation schemes.
The villagers also lamented that they all once cherished and celebrated the formation of RHAC which was hoped to usher in progress and development, particularly in the Rabha areas under the autonomous council but regrettably it seems that they have totally ignored their cause and left us in the lurch with their hollow promises. This correspondent also found that the classes are frequently irregular in the only high school at Koruwa Bhasa as teachers have been kept away from school due to their engagements as BLOs and now on NRC duties.
Further, allegations of anomalies under the National Food Security Act scheme were reported to this correspondent by many villagers but amongst them Sava Rabha of Ulupara, card no 0272311 informed that she gets 1 kg rice short from her allotted quota of 35 kgs per month. She also added that almost all the villagers have to forego 1 kg of rice from their allotted quota and they all have grown accustomed to it. These people also alleged that without the knowledge and consent of some of the officials of the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs who are hand in glove with the fair price shop owners, such irregularities would not have been possible. They demanded an immediate inquiry by the district administration into the whole affair.