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Meals come first, polls later

For 80-odd families living on an 11km embankment beside National Highway 31 in Bongaigaon district, life is an everyday struggle for existence. No wonder the Lok Sabha elections do not excite the residents of Balajani-Chechapani revenue village.

“My father Mahindra Ray, 75, had 15 bighas of paddy fields. Now, my two brothers my parents and I have been living in separate huts since 2008 after losing our land to erosion. We have been reduced to daily-wagers now,” said Tulubh Ray, 36, a resident of Chechapani.

Government support for the erosion-affected farmers is still a far cry. The embankment was built in 1978 when late Sarat Chandra Singha was the chief minister. After him, no parliamentarian or legislator has offered any hope of a rehabilitation scheme.

Uttam Ray, also from Chechapani, said, “When we do not get any work, specially during the monsoon, we have to survive by eating boiled leaves of guar and yam.”

Chechapani-Balajani village, which falls under Abhayapuri North Assembly constituency and Barpeta parliamentary constituency, has been witnessing rampant erosion by the Aie since 1958.

“Since 1958, when I was only 10, I have been witnessing the Aie gobble up our lands. We don’t know what awaits us next,” said another resident, Braja Kishore Ray, 72.

Amguri, Haldibari, Dankinamari, Jamdoha, Chakrabhaum, Chakrashila, Khostor, Huramara, Bagariguri, Jaraguri, Nathpara, are some of the villages most affected by erosion in Bongaigaon district.

The late Abul Fazal Golam Osmani was elected MP from Barpeta on a Congress ticket in 1999 and 2004. Osmani never visited our villages, the victims alleged.

Sitting Congress MP Ismail Hussain has also never visited our villages, the affected residents said.

Mahindra Ray, 65, said, “I gave Rs 500 bribe to an employee of the Srijangram block office a year ago for getting old-age pension but to no avail.”

According to Ray, he has not got any work under the MNREGA since 2011, though he has a job card.

Staring at a bleak future, the erosion-hit people of Balajani-Chechapani living on the embankment, 136km from Guwahati, want to vote for a candidate who can assure them of rehabilitation and support.

l Barpeta votes on April 24


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