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Bengal: Pangs of deprivation among tribals of Bankura as political parties vie for their favour

Despite infrastructure improvements, unequal distribution of welfare schemes leaves Santhal villagers in Bankura struggling

PTI Ranibandh Published 23.05.24, 02:17 PM
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Representational Image File

An indomitable spirit of struggle seems to be the source of sustenance for residents of the Santhal villages of Ranibandh in Bankura, where pangs of deprivation of access to government welfare schemes like Awas, Lakshmir Bhandar or MGNREGA keep their lives on the edge.

Although infrastructure developments in the form of blacktop roads cutting across the lush green forests, solar street lights in some pockets and tap water connections to households were apparent, people claim that unequal distribution of government benefits affects them big time.


The story remains uniform across the Santhal villages of Ghagra, Rautera, Sonardi, Haludkanali and several other forest-covered areas, forming parts of West Bengal's Jangalmahal, which were affected by Maoist activities a little over a decade ago.

"Some are getting these benefits twice over, while others are fully deprived," said Sukhlal Mandi, who works as an occasional bus driver on a local route, while sitting outside his modest but tastefully decorated mud house in Ghagra village.

Mandi said that he never received a house under the government's 'Awas yojana'.

Lamenting that the political leaders and candidates come only before the elections, Shyamlal Hembram of Sonardi village said, "All parties take advantage of us." Sudhir Tudu, a septuagenarian, of Rautera village, said that his old age pension has stopped getting deposited in the bank.

"I made visits to the officials concerned, but nothing fruitful has happened yet to restart the pension," he said.

Ghagra village youth Bijoy Murmu said although he works as an agricultural labour in the farming season, but mostly sits idle during other parts of the year.

"All the parties are the same, no one is there for people like us," he said.

Murmu said that there are problems of lack of jobs, water not flowing out of taps, housing and distant schools.

"What is the use of studying anyway, there are no jobs," he said.

Mandi lamented that while the well-to-do get richer, the conditions of the poor hardly see much change.

Two middle-aged women of Sonardi, unwilling to share their names, said they work as daily labourers and are yet to get funds under the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme of the state government.

Shyamlal Hembram of Sonardi claimed that water flows from taps in their village only on the days officials visit the area.

He said that only one person has a government job in his village which houses a hundred-odd people.

Niloy Hansda, the village head of Haludkandi, claimed he had offered to give land for construction of a bus stop for passengers, but the proposal was yet to be taken up by the officials concerned.

Shyamlal and a few others claimed that they had done work for a canal in the area under the 100-day job guarantee scheme two years back, but did not get any remuneration.

TMC's Rautera village youth president Sankar Hembram claimed that a lot of development work has been done by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but added that there are some issues like recognition of Sarna religion of the tribal people and fake scheduled tribe (ST) certificates allegedly being obtained by some non-tribals which need to be resolved.

TMC MLA of Ranibandh and Minister of State of Food and Supplies department, Jyotsna Mandi, claimed that tribal people of the area were happy with the work done by the state government.

"Everything has been done," she told PTI.

Asked about the issues raised by the villagers, she said, "People need to be more aware." Speaking on the area’s water scarcity problems, Mandi said that the water level goes down during the summer months. “Tap water supply is meant for consumption and not for other purposes,” she said.

The minister alleged that the housing-related issues were due to non-release of funds to the state by the Centre under the Awas Yojana.

Subhas Sarkar, BJP's Bankura constituency candidate for the second consecutive term, told PTI, "The Adivasi brothers and sisters are with us since the Narendra Modi government has done a lot of things for them." Sarkar, the Union Minister of State for Education, claimed that the indigenous people understand that the BJP can bring about real development.

"The Van Dhan project is a very good one, but unfortunately that cannot be implemented properly and completely throughout West Bengal, because of lack of interest from the state government," he said.

According to TRIFED, Van Dhan Vikas Yojana for forest dwelling tribal population is a component of the mechanism for marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and development of value chain for MFP.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.


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