On Thursday last when the whole country was rejoicing in celebrating the 73rd Independence Day and leaders and babus were delivering speech highlighting different achievements and schemes of the Government, for the adivasi forest dwellers of two villages such as KanardamundaSahi and Kuhlapanduli under Bolanigram panchayat in Joda block, the day carried no meaning.
They are deprived of many of the schemes and programmes of both the State and Central Governments.
Some months ago, a herd of around of 17 jumbos had come to Kanardamunda village at night and left the place after devastating the ancestral mud houses of fouradivasis people and destroying the pulses and cereals available there.
After the news came in the local media, local forest officials visited the village to take stock of the situation. Then, it was the turn of the revenue officials to assess the damage and send a report to the DFO, Keonjhar so that the poor adivasi dwellers could get compensation to repair their damaged houses, but it is alleged that the revenue officials are silent till now for which the affected people are taking shelters in their relatives’ houses and sometimes under the shades of the trees nearby.
Near Kanardamunda, the Kohlapanduli village is situated at an altitude of 2,777 feet from the sea level in the midst of three forests, such as Karrow reserve forest, Sidhamatha forest and Lenkdaghat forest under the range of the same Bolani GP. When villagers came to know that a group of journalists had come on the Independence Day to see the conditions of the forest dwellers whose houses have been damaged by jumbos, they immediately reached and invited the scribes to see how they are living in pitiable conditions for lack of a permanent road to their village. They alleged Independence has no meaning for them. After reaching there with much difficulties, it dawned upon the journalists that the villagers have to walk daily 4 km on a forest road to reach Haramatha, a village situated by the side of main road connecting two public sector mines Bolani iron mines (Odisha) on the one hand and Kiribur Meghatpur iron mines (Jharkhand) on the other side, from where they go to Barbil and other places in search of jobs. The village being situated in the zone of an elephant corridor, parents hesitate to send their kids to a school situated outside the village as there is always fear of jumbos passing through. They don't take the risk of sending their kids in the middle of the forest to reach the school. Their plea is that if a permanent pucca road can be built there, then they can send their children in groups by arranging some vehicles.
The area being Maoist-infested, Rs 50 lakh had been sanctioned under the IAP (Integrated Action Plan) by the Forest Department in the year 2015 to build a road passing through the village; but due to mysterious reasons, around Rs 15 lakh was diverted for construction of a road in the Harichandanpur forest range, another Maoist-infested area in Keonjhar district.
The forest dwellers are waiting for the day when any project for construction of a road to solve their day to day problem will come up.