Juangs caught in red tape

Lack of road leads to multiple problems

By SUBRAT DAS in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 22.07.16

Bhubaneswar, July 21: Members of the primitive Juang tribe living at Nagada village in the mineral-rich Sukinda valley appear to be caught in bureaucratic red tape.

The tribal people are in news for the death of 19 children due to malnutrition. The benefit of government schemes is yet to reach the area, which lacks even a connecting road. "A road could not be constructed because of the hilly terrain and the fact that the area falls in the restricted forest zone," said revenue divisional commissioner A.B. Ota.

The government also admits that the 85-odd families belonging to the tribe have not been given rights under the Forest Rights Act. Women and child development minister Usha Devi has gone to the extent of suggesting that the tribal people, who have been living atop the mountain for ages, should come down to the plains to get the benefits of development.

But, the lack of a road is the crux of the problem. "Though crores of rupees have been spent on the development of the mineral-rich district and there is provision of construction of all-weather roads under various schemes, no one has ever thought of constructing them," said Congress MLA Anshuman Mohanty, who visited the area yesterday.

According to the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana norms, concrete roads can be built for villages or hamlets with a population of 250 in the Maoist-hit districts (Jajpur is a Maoist-affected district). Similarly, under the Mukhya Mantri Sadak Yojana, roads can be built for a village or hamlet with a population of 100. According to official information, Nagada has a population of 589.

Ota told The Telegraph: "Building a road under the pradhan mantri scheme is not possible as Nagada is located on a hilltop with a 65 degree slope." He said alternatives were being explored to build a road to the hilltop from the Kankahad side in Dhenkanal district, which is easier and shorter.

Eyebrows have also been raised as to why houses under the Indira Awas Yojana or the Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana have not built for the tribal people, who are eligible for land rights under the Forest Rights Act. Mohanty said the district collector had admitted that houses could not be provided to the villagers, as it "is impossible to carry construction materials to the hilltop in absence of road connectivity".

There are allegations that many of the Juang households have not been provided with ration cards under the National Food Security Act, even as malnutrition is rampant there. Ota said steps were being taken to provide ration cards to all those left out.

Ironically, though the state government has set up a micro project for the endangered Juang tribe at Gonasika in Keonjhar, those living in Nagada are not covered under this as it is not located in a scheduled area but in a district where the tribal population is less than 50 per cent, said a senior official of the ST and SC development department.

In another development, delegations from the Congress, BJP and the CPM visited the area and a BJP delegation today met governor S.C. Jamir over the issue. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik said all possible measures were being taken to undertake projects. "We will see that such incidents do not recur," he said.