Jan. 28: A lot is sown but little reaped is a feeling shared by most of the 12,000-odd population in the Nam Soongi gaon panchayat area under Titabar subdivision of Jorhat district, because the road to empowerment seems to be leading nowhere.
Fanning this sense of near-despair is one major road and a number of arteries, which turn slushy during the monsoon and five-water supply schemes for which pipes have been laid and reservoirs built but the taps have remained dry for more than a year now.
Parched are the people and animals when there is no rain; these very people are swamped in knee-deep muck on the roads when it does.
If there are AGP pockets of discontent in the panchayat, which falls under Titabar constituency represented by chief minister Tarun Gogoi, the angst also runs deep among the Congress supporters for their party’s failure to address the needs of the local residents despite a slew of development schemes.
The majority of the 6,642 voters, however, are in favour of the Congress — as it was in the last two polls — for the electorate still hopes that the panchayati raj system will deliver. And if it does not, then the people will ensure that it does. They will make their vote count. Or so they profess.
Congress worker Bijit Tamuly of Bogagaon said his work will not end with just campaigning and casting his vote. “What happened on earlier occasions was that the ward members usually doled out the schemes to favourites. This time the people will decide who should get what first and will not abide by the decision of the member or president if he or she goes wrong. I will try to organise the people and the Gram Unnayan Sabhas so that they act as checks and balances. Zilla parishad chairman Putul Borgohain has been apprised of this and has welcomed the proposal,” Tamuly said.
Aruna Khataniar, who has got a Congress ticket for ward no. 1 at Bogagaon, complained about the water problem. “Most of the houses are suffering for want of potable water,” she said.
So why join the Congress if the party had done nothing in the past five years and more? “The other parties could be worse,” she said.
Armed with a collage of photos in which Tarun Gogoi was shown inspecting Tamuly’s Beetel goat farm, he said he brought the collage at Congress a meeting to impress on PWD minister Ajanta Neog that the chief minister had traversed these roads to visit his farm and that these should be built at the earliest.
“Gogoi had visited my place twice. Right after he had left a lot of measurements and assessments were made but nothing came of it in the end,” he said. The road in question is the 6km Soongi-Sokiting Path, which passes through Bhakat gaon, Mohana Ting gaon, Soongi tea estate Eraltoli Bosabeel, Dhuboni and Sokiting station.
Mainu Bora, who votes for the Congress, said the villagers could be fooled once or twice but not all the time. “This time the people are more aware and that is why we will not just listen to ministers like Ajanta Neog telling us that this has been done and that will be done while, in fact, very little has been done,” she said.
“The roads get so bad during the monsoon that my seven-year-old daughter often misses school and it gets worse when exams are on, particularly the half-yearly examination that usually falls during that time,” she said.
Prafulla Gowala, a third-year BA student of Titabar’s N.N. Saikia College, who cycles down the road to college, said he was scared to return at night if it rained because of the knee-high red slush and it was difficult to negotiate the track.
Tankeswar Das, a village development member who had come also to meet Ajanta Neog during a pre-poll rally here, pointed out that job cards had been issued to those who did not need jobs and that very few had been given the mandatory 100 days of work.
“Ajanta Neog has visited us. Tarun Gogoi’s son Gaurav had come a few days back and we are happy that he is showing an interest in politics. But what is the use of his coming now? I told him to come when the polls are over and see how much work has been done,” Bora said.
Sumi Das and Jina Das complained about the electricity or rather the lack of it in the Putanjara ghat area of old Soongi.
Former Congress Nam Soongi gaon panchayat president Jatin Pathak, who had also met Neog to hand over a few applications to construct roads, said a few major roads had been built and some projects like the five water-supply schemes, which would draw water from the rivers so that it is arsenic-free, had been put into place and would start soon.
Regarding NREGA schemes, he said it was difficult to make new gravel road schemes under NREGA in the Nam Soongi area as the people wanted stone chips to be placed on the road but that this place only had mud.
Titabar may well see a cakewalk by the Congress in this panchayat election “as this is the best option with the Centre and state governments both being Congress,” one of the villagers said but taking the people for a ride may not be easy the next time round.