The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Leaders couldn’t, locals can

Hijole (Murshidabad), Dec. 30: Tired of waiting for the zilla parishad to come to their help, villagers here have got together to repair the Baburpul embankment along the Dwarka river to save their home and hearth.

Even the landless villagers have come forward to donate labour. “I have no crops standing in the field but I built my mud hut only two years ago after putting in all my savings. I cannot bear to see it destroyed in the coming rains,” said Montu Dolui, a resident of Baghachhra village under Kandi police station.

The villagers’ concern centres around the 7-km Baburpul embankment that dates back to the days of the nawabs. It protects more than 2,500 acres of mostly paddy fields.

Eight spots are being repaired with the help of a day’s labour from the villagers. They aim to get at least 1,000 days of work.

In 2000, the area was under 15 feet of water. Even pucca structures were not spared.

The repair drive has been organised by the CPI(ML), Liberation, a Naxalite faction, and local CPI members. “Despite requests to the panchayat to get the breaches in the embankment repaired, we have had no response. We have taken the initiative ourselves and the villagers have spontaneously come forward with their labour,” said Sukumar Pattadar, a CPI(ML) panchayat member.

The block development officer of Kandi, Bharat Mondal, said Hijole panchayat had been plagued with political problems and the area hardly had any development work in the past few months. “The panchayat has not sent in any scheme to me to repair the Baburpul embankment and as a result, neither the panchayat samity nor the zilla parishad has sanctioned funds,” he said.

In fact, the panchayat pradhan was charged with stealing more than 128 quintals of paddy.

In the past four years, Hijole has seen three pradhans with the seat being swapped between the Congress and the CPI(ML). At present, the panchayat is led by a CPM-supported Independent candidate, Saidur Rehman.

Zilla parishad chief Sachidanand Kandari said: “The embankment is our responsibility. Other embankments, too, need repairs. We have not been able to repair them due to a lack of funds.”

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