Friday, April 24, 2009

No healthcare, water, they look to Maoists for help

Posted: Apr 25, 2009 at 0333 hrs IST

Lalgarh Sukur Mandi, a resident of Kumarbandh village in Lalgarh, wants tribal villages to be separated from the state. He gets amused when he is told that West Bengal has won the first prize of Rs 1.50 crore for Panchayat Empowerment and Accountability Incentive Scheme given by the Centre.
“I hunt for rats every day and roast them to feed my six-member family. Usually, we do not eat roasted rats. We boil them before eating. But these days we have to trudge for at least 2 miles for a pitcher of water, the only well in a two-mile area,” said Mandi.

He said when the local administration failed to respond despite several submissions about the water problem, he complained to the Maoists in a Lok Adalat held by the outfit two days ago in the village. “Now we expect to get a tube well soon as they have already dug up tube wells in many villages like Pelia, Khasjungle, Kantapahari and Salboni,” said Mandi.

The tribals in Lalgarh and Ramgarh have more reasons to smile as they got a health centre, Janasadharaner Swastha Udyog, in the 15-km stretch between Lalgarh and Ramgarh, set up by the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCRA) a month ago.

“Earlier we had to carry patients to Lalgarh for treatment. In serious cases, we had no other option except leaving the patient to destiny. Despite having a health centre in the gram panchayat office, we cannot avail of it as it never opens,” said Harun Murmu, a resident of Sijua gram panchayat.

“We often see armed men enter the health centre at night. We know they are Maoists and they hold their meetings there. But we never inform this to the police because they will capture the centre and close it,” added Murmu.

Chhatradahar Mahato of PCPA said the committee has set up the centre’s building by raising funds from villagers.

“We arranged for doctors to visit the centre twice a week. At present we have medicines worth Rs 6,000. We have decided not to depend on the administration,” said the tribal leader.

Block Development Officer of Lalgarh Sourav Barik said the state owned the building, which was forcibly opened by the PCPA as a health centre a month ago. “We were constructing the building but the committee took over it. There is no body to stop them,” said Barik.

Mahato has also engaged 100 women at Girulia village in Salboni to construct an embankment for storing water for irrigation work in the area. “We have a similar plan for Lalgarh. We have arranged for everything and work on an embankment for storing water from Kansabati river will begin in a week,” said Mahato. Asked if the PCPA received any help from Maoists over these projects, he said: “We have done everything on our own. But if they want to help us we do not have any problem.”

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