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Villagers demanding road to boycott elections
ITANAGAR, May 18: A small band of villagers from a remote corner of the state that has remained cut-off for decades have decided to not participate in India’s electoral process to voice their anger against the government.
In 1986, residents of the smaller Doye and Jorjee villages in West Siang district left their homes and established Jime village near Zirdo. There are currently 13 families in the village of 140 people, all of whom are dependent on markets from nearby villages for their essential commodities.
Villagers say that they have to trek through “tough mountainous terrain to procure their daily supplies and other essential items”. Frustrated, the villagers are now standing up to what they say is sustained negligence from the political leadership.
Writing to the chief minister, Gojum Riba, a lawyer and a resident from the village, said that the villagers have taken a ‘No Road, No Vote’ stance to press for their demands.
Residents say that the absence of a road has caused many issues including untimely deaths of persons who could have been rescued had there been a healthcare facility.
The absence of a healthcare facility means that villagers often have to carry patients on home-made stretchers to Zirdo, around six kilometres away, from where vehicles are able to ply.
“Residents have already lifted three dead bodies,” the letter read. It also said that in 1999, when an epidemic of malaria broke out, two infant boys died since they could not be provided with emergency and proper healthcare services.
The absence of roads has also meant that villagers have been unable to establish market links for their organically grown agricultural products.
Villagers also claim that there has been a lack of will by successive governments to set up a political system.
“In the village, there is only a gram panchayat member. The anchal samity member is attached with Zirdo village and developmental activities have been completely neglected and concentrated at Zirdo village only,” the letter added.
Villagers say that they used to walk to Zirdo village to cast their votes in the state and general elections and have continued to participate in elections since a polling booth was set up in their village.
“But none of the ministers, MLAs and MPs have visited our village to take stock of problems till date,” the letter alleged.
Although work on constructing a road to the village had started in 1991, there is still no road as yet. Work continued intermittently until 2012 when the forests were cleared. However, two kilometres of the proposed road has still not been removed.
Residents claim that a total of Rs 71 lakh has been sanctioned by the state government over the years for the construction of the road but that funds were “completely misappropriated by erring officers and contractors”.
Villagers have complained about the alleged misappropriation and a case is currently pending with the chief vigilance officer of the state.
Demanding action against those “involved in misappropriation of fund”, villagers are demanding that a road connecting their village be built soon and have threatened to boycott the panchayat election in 2018 and the assembly and general elections in 2019.
This is the second time that villagers in the state have taken such a stance after villagers in Sissen in now Siang district boycotted the state and general elections in 2014 for want of road.