Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Rural folks’ red threat moves govt


Bihar’s leader of the Opposition Rabri Devi stages a demonstration in front of the Assembly on Tuesday. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Patna, March 11: Residents of Jauki, a village 30km from Muzaffarpur and around 100km from here, has learnt that when nothing works, red threat in the form of a letter does.

Jauki with a 1,000-odd population has sent 600 of its able men all over India to earn a livelihood, as there are no jobs available locally.

Irked by the constant migration, villagers recently wrote to President Pratibha Patil asking her and the state to act and provide jobs to rural residents, else they would take up arms or join rebels’ outfit.

The residents of one of the worst flood-hit areas in the district, in their joint letter, conceded that they “could no longer live by agriculture produce, as they were always threatened with floods or droughts”.

Though not under a Naxalite-hit zone, the village is close enough to red bastions in neighbouring Tirhut (Sitamarhi), East and West Champaran.

The letter went on to add that life was difficult in the village, as most of its able men were in New Delhi, Gurgaon, Nasik, Surat, Rajkot or in Mumbai. The letter added that Aurai, the nearest market, 7km from the hamlet, was linked by a mud-road that “disappeared” every monsoon.

“The letter has been taken seriously. The Bihar government has asked the district administration to ensure implementation of welfare schemes in the area,” said a state government official.

A police officer conceded that life in Jauki was “difficult” and that the red threat could not be “easily wished away”.

“The state cannot play down the matter by saying that migration is a pan-Bihar or pan-India phenomenon. In Jauki it has assumed an epidemic proportion,” he added.

Muzaffarpur district magistrate Vinay Kumar, told The Telegraph: “Jauki villagers did write a letter to the President and the matter was referred back to me.” But Kumar is not convinced about the plea-turned-threat.

“The state administration has to cope up with a difficult terrain to reach out to the villages there. Despite that it ensures that all health and education programmes reach every area.”

The district magistrate, however, admitted that he had not visited the village. “I am planning to go there soon. I have spoken to Jauki panchayat members and have asked them to motivate residents to seek jobs under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.”

Terming the letter a ploy to “emotionally blackmail” the government, he stressed that no special schemes, plans or packages would be planned for the village despite the letter. “We will rein in all the blackmail with firm planning,” he said.

He added: “I have learnt that some villagers are not willing to avail labour-based jobs. That’s why there’s a crisis.”

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