Cry for power at polio drive

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  • Published 21.01.13

Islampur, Jan. 20: Residents of a village near Islampur today boycotted a polio vaccination drive and confined health workers for nearly eight hours demanding electricity in their homes.

About 300 villagers stopped nearly 1,000 children from getting vaccinated at the polio camp and locked up the health workers around 9am at Burijagir village. The camp was meant for children who live in Burijagir, Dangapara and Machankhan — three villages around 30km from Islampur town.

The block medical officer of health, Pramod Adhikary, who went to the village around 1pm to try and “rescue” the three health workers, confined at the local Integrated Child Development Centre, was also confined.

Around 5pm, subdivisional officer Samanjit Sen went to the village and requested the protestors not to “ruin the future of the children” by not allowing them to take the vaccine.

The villagers said they had sent letters to the BDO and SDO several times as well as the current Trinamul MLA Choudhury Abdul Karim, seeking the electrification of their village. Some villagers said the demand was at least 10 years old. Mostaq Alam, one of the protestors, said the residents had found no other way to draw the attention of the administration to their plight.

“We will not participate in the vaccination programme. The administration does not care about our living conditions and that implies that they are apathetic towards us and our children,” he said.

“When we voted the Congress, the CPM kept us deprived. All villages within a kilometre have electricity and despite us drawing the attention of our Trinamul MLA Choudhury Abdul Karim, nothing has been done,” Alam said.

Karim, the Trinamul minister for mass education and library services, said he would take all measures to see that Burijagir got electricity.

“I have been pursuing the matter. The villagers should not disrupt the vaccination programme that will only affect the future of their children,” he said. The village is under a CPM gram panchayat.

District health department officials said today’s incident was not an isolated one. Over the past five years, villagers in Islampur, Goalpokhar and Chakulia have boycotted several polio camps demanding development of roads, water supply and electricity.

The chief medical officer of the district, Biplab Kanti Das, said he failed to understand why the villagers were linking the polio programme with local demands. “The agitators are depriving their own children of their right to a healthy life,” Das said.

Subdivisional officer Sengupta said the gherao was lifted around 5pm. “We are also trying to find out who provoked them to stop the vaccination drive. The camp will be extended for two days from tomorrow,” he said.