Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Maoist fear hits development, villagers allege govt apathy

- Glorious journey of McCluskieganj on way to end
AMIT GUPTA

Iron beams lie scattered at McCluskieganj railway station, where a project of an overbridge remains incomplete. Picture by Prashant Mitra
McCluskieganj, April 27: Maoist menace hasn’t affected them, but the government apathy over the years has made their lives miserable.

The tiny hamlet of McCluskieganj, known for predominance of Anglo-Indian community, is making an utmost effort to retain its past glory amid reports of presence of ultra-Left outfits.

Even during the election season, the 3,000-odd villagers cry for basic amenities like safe drinking water, healthcare and uninterrupted power supply. The 8km road between Khelari and McCluskieganj, about 65km from here, is in extremely dilapidated shape, while the lone tank constructed by the railways never worked towards fulfilling water requirement of the local population.

Villagers claimed that they had not faced any problem with the Naxalites but they feel quality of leadership is a sad part. “Neither the BJP’s Ramtahal Choudhary nor the Congress’s sitting MP, Subodh Kant Sahay, ever paid attention to local problems,” said one of the villagers. For a mild fever, they have to trudge the 8km of dusty road to a health sub-centre in Khelari.

The president of local chapter of the All-India Anglo-Indian Association, Angela Norman, said only about 30 families of Anglo-Indian origin are left in McCluskieganj, founded by Ernest McCluskie in 1932. “There used to be over 50 families of Anglo-Indian origin till the ’90s. Tourist rush to bungalows, set against the picturesque hills, was at its peak till the last decade. But now we find tourists only during the Durga Puja when mostly Bengali tourists throng the place,” said Norman, a teacher at ICSE-affiliated Don Bosco School run by a society of Anglo-Indians.

Tourism industry over, the only other money-spinning sectors are a cement plant, located about 20km from the village; Don Bosco School, where at least 900 students are enrolled and mango, guava and fruit plantation. The students stay at local lodges, once created for tourists, as the institute has no hostel on its campus.

Norman’s husband, Michael, a railway employee said that the construction of Khelari-McCluskieganj road and a foot over-bridge at McCluskieganj station was abandoned apparently because of Naxalite fear. “The local administration never intervened towards ensuring completion of both the projects, while the railways did nothing after constructing the water tank during early ’90s,” said Norman.

Sexagenarian A.G.D. Rozario, a former MLA representing the Anglo-Indian community and director of the Don Bosco Anglo-Indian Educational Society, feels that good roads, regular electric and water supply, health facilities among others would have solved many a problem.

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