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Flood-hit Salmara shuns poll

Jorhat, March 27: The people of Salmara in Majuli will boycott the Lok Sabha elections to protest the lack of action in protecting the area from erosion and floods.

Salmara is famous for boat building and its pottery, both of which are becoming dying crafts owing to dwindling land.

In a meeting held a fortnight back, residents took a decision not to allow campaigning by any political party. In consonance with the decision, the AGP candidate for Lakhimpur seat, Hari-prasad Dihingia, was heckled out of Salmara recently, when he had come to seek votes.

Rubul Kalita, a resident, said the people were fed up with the false promises of politicians before every election. “Once the elections are over they do not bother to come here. Erosion has taken away large chunks of land and floods inundate our lands every year but no one visited last year to solve our problems,” he said.

The populace is also miffed that though the households, numbering about 150, had been promised compensation to the tune of Rs 25,000 for loss of crops and property, only a few families actually received this amount.

“If the government is not there to aid us, we can very well do without them. We have survived here for centuries and we can do so now,” Raju Bhuyan, another resident, said.

Bhuyan said Dihingia had not been allowed to hold a meeting here nor seek votes. “We will do the same to anyone who comes to campaign here. We are determined not to cast our votes,” he said.

Salmara once had a thriving pottery industry as the clay soil, best for making pots, is found in that area of the river island. Erosion by the Brahmaputra has shrunk Majuli to about 50 per cent of its habitable area in the past few decades.

In the past six decades, the habitable land has been reduced from 1,226 square km to 576 square km, because of unabated erosion.

Salmara, one of the worst-affected areas, has seen nearly 100 square metres of land gobbled up by the river over the past few months in some areas. “Owing to erosion, many people had to shift to other places and as a result the boat-making industry has suffered,” Bhuyan said.

Raju Bora, another resident, said the people were disenchanted with Ranee Narah, Congress candidate for the Lakhimpur seat. “She is the Union minister of state for tribal welfare but has done nothing for her constituents. She had inaugurated the construction of the number 8 Sumoimari spur to contain floods and erosion in 2009, but it is yet to be completed. She has failed us despite being a Union minister,” he said.