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West Bengal border village residents face 'government apathy, dejection'

By Kirity Roy* 

Miserable situation prevails  in a West Bengal village where the residents are facing governmental apathy and dejection. Dakhin Jhaukuthi is under Balabhut Gram Panchayet of Toofangunj I block of Cooch Behar district. This village is totally isolated from mainland India and encircled by border fencing between India and Bangladesh. 
Nearly 70-80 families consisting of 450 inhabitants, all belong to Muslim backward or general castes. The villagers cultivate nearly 122.3 acres of three yielding land but without any proper facility of irrigation. 
The roads of this village are dirt roads and that too in a dilapidated state. There is no school in the village, the primary health center is 6 kilometers away while the Block Health Center is 18 kilometers, primary school and secondary schools are 2 kilometers and 3 kilometers from the village respectively. 
The villagers state that the condition of the roads is unchanged ever since Indian gained Independence. The political dispensations in power have changed from time to time but the miseries of the residents not. 
Apart from this the village is without any facility for potable drinking water. Though the lands of this village can yield three crops in a year, without proper facilities of irrigation, the farmers are unable to cultivate their lands and are facing huge financial loss. 
The villagers use hand pumps to quench their thirst, which they bore their own at 30-35 feet deep. They are devoid from any governmental development schemes at this village and they have no land at any other part of India to settle.
Miseries of the residents has further increased by the arbitrary restrictions by the Border Security Force personnel to reach the agrarian lands of the villagers at the other side of the border fence through gate number 17 of Jhaukuthi Border Outpost, ‘F’ Company of 14 BSF Battalion. The list of affected farmers is quite long, a few examples are:
Amia Bibi,  local Panchayet member, said that the posted BSF personnel restrict the villagers to cultivate the lands which are surrounded by the border fence. They also create hindrance to construct roads. She assured that she will discuss the issues of drinking water and irrigation facilities with the Panchayet chief. 
On March 18, 2024, villagers submitted a mass petition signed by nearly 100 family heads to the Block Development Officer of Tufanganj I Block. When the representatives of the village made request to the BDO to discuss their demands, he showed his inability and said ‘submit your complaint, corrective measures will be taken later.’
Necessary corrective measures needed include:
  • Take immediate actions to reconstruct the roads of Dakkhin Jhaukuthi and convert it to asphalt or concrete road, immediate measures to provide the villagers potable drinking water and irrigation facilities.
  • Give proper direction to BSF authority for withdrawal of the arbitrary restrictions on movement and agricultural activities, OR shift the villagers after due acquisition of lands.
---
*Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, Hooghly. This article is based on the author's complaint to the the Principal Secretary, Home Department, Government of West Bengal

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