| Urukjan Bibi, a resident of the embankment, busy with household chores. Picture by Kishore Talukdar |
Borjhar, April 3: They are a forgotten lot between elections but only remembered ahead of one.
The 700-odd families living hand-to-mouth for the past four decades on a 19km embankment in the Simina Futuri area of Kamrup district now figure in the itinerary of the candidates of Gauhati Lok Sabha constituency.
Over the past couple of weeks, many an election rally has been held in the area dominated by people from the minority community.
The past few days have also seen candidates visiting the area and making promises, something that the inhabitants have only heard in the past and not seen them transform into reality.
“We have had candidates visiting the area in the past couple of weeks. Apparently till the other day no one was interested in listening to our woes, let alone making assurances on development,” said Hazarat Ali, 48, a resident of the area.
There are around 5,500 voters in the area, including over 2,500 embankment dwellers who had made the dyke from Dakhala to Gumi their home after the Brahmaputra-triggered erosion rendered them homeless in the seventies.
The dyke, known as the Palasbari-Gumi embankment, was constructed in 1974 to protect villages after the breach of the country’s first dyke, Palasbari-Nagarbera embankment, constructed in 1956.
Over the years, the authorities concerned have not paid any heed to the pleas of these people.
“Our pleas for resettlement have failed to evoke any response. Now, we have candidates visiting us ahead of the elections and making promises of improving our condition. They only want us to vote for them,” an embankment dweller, who did not wish to be named, said.
Some like Airun Bibi were born on the dyke. “Our parents were penniless and did not have any belongings after the river created havoc. Thanks to the dyke, we had found a new home. It’s here that I got married as well. But our condition is no better as we still lead a hand-to-mouth existence,” Airun, 25, said.
Like Airun, many have been living in penury for decades. So much so that women have to supplement the paltry income of their husbands by weaving.
“Being wage-earners, we could never think beyond two meals a day. We have been left to rot here. We are at the mercy of the river as authorities are not concerned about our well-being,” one of them said.
Several children have had to stop going to school as well. “A majority had to give up education before their matriculation examination. That’s because we could not afford their tuition fees,” 30-year-old Urukjan Bibi, another dyke dweller and a ward member of 28 Bejartari gaon panchayat, said.
A section also faces acute shortage of drinking water. “The water pumped out from the tube wells is not fit for drinking,” one of them rued.