The Telegraph captures the daily struggles of the common man in Cachar district despite availability of government funds
Hathikhal (Cachar), Feb. 6: It’s a gaon panchayat where development is still a dream despite crores of rupees being pumped in for the purpose. A bridge built without approach roads stands testimony to the villagers’ plight.
The much-vaunted claim of the government about all-round development in Assam is certainly not applicable to this or other villages under the Cachar zilla parishad.
Still, the 5,000-odd residents of this village, around 35km southeast of district headquarters Silchar, find it hard to stop hoping.
On entering Hathikhal, where the economic mainstay is farming despite the lack of any modern irrigation facilities, the sight that greeted one was of a few persons sipping tea at a ramshackle stall, watching volunteers string banners of various political parties for the February 12 panchayat polls.
One of them, Zia Uddin Mazumdar, 36, a social worker, said with a smile: “The only development in this village is no development.” He said the roads here had not undergone any repair since 1952.
Commuters have a harrowing time travelling over one of the most important roads here — the 20km Sonai-Amraghat-Dharmi “gravel” road that leads to the famous 17th century shrine of Lord Shiva atop the Bhuvan hill. Though nearly 5 lakh pilgrims visit the shr-ine on Shivaratri every year, the administration seems uninterested in developing it.
As for the Hathikhal “bridge” across the Sonai stream here, madarsa teacher Fariz Uddin Barbhuyan, 42, said it was the perfect example of the skewed development here, as despite being built way back in 2004, no approach roads have been added to it till date.
Hatikhal is part of a cluster of around 11 gaon panchayats, 7km from the block headquarters of Sonai, each a portrait of underdevelopment and poverty. According to Sirajuddin Ahmed, a resident of the village who commutes 70km every day to reach his workplace — the Silchar district court, no government scheme to ameliorate their poverty have ever been implemented in the area, nor have any job or entrepreneurship avenues been created.
Along the way from Silchar via Sonai, one comes across a long earthen embankment built in 1958 to prevent flooding of cropland by the Barak. But of late, villagers have cut through it to gain access to the PWD road.
The air-conditioned inspection guesthouse of the irrigation department, built to accommodate officials who come to inspect the condition of the ravaged embankment, was a stark aberration that stood out in the backdrop of the abject poverty in the area.Funds, though, do not seem to be a constraint.
According to a document made available to The Telegraph by Cachar zilla parishad officials, it received Rs 32 crore in the 2011-12 fiscal for development under the 12th and 13th Finance Commission awards, Backward Regions Grant Fund, 4th Assam Finance Commission grants and Assam Vikas Yojana.