Lalgarh’s poverty behind red rage

19 Jun 2009, Subhbrata Guha, TNN

At first sight, Lalgarh doesn’t look intimidating — its nonchalant villagers and the languid pace of life is like any other village. Little gets in and even less gets out. But beneath the pastoral calm of rural Bengal, Lalgarh has been simmering as the red lava of Maoist rage flowing out of this West Midnapore town, 180 km from Kolkata, now proves.

The state didn’t wither away in Lalgarh, it just wasn’t ever there. For decades, tribals in Lalgarh, comprising several villages under Binpur-II block in West Midnapore district, sat on the powder keg as Naxals amassed guns and bombs, indoctrinated illiterate village boys and fed on the disillusionment with the laid-back and corrupt CPM administration.

In the last 30 years, the Left Front has not built roads to connect far-flung villages, with virtually one bus plying between district headquarters of Jhargram and Belpaharai daily.

Also, adjoining villages are Amlasole and Amjhora from where first hunger deaths were reported in the state, pointing to the ruling Left Front government’s oppression and dispossession. The NREGA has failed to provide succour to Ukil Murmu, Gayanswar Murmu, Gour Murmu and Dhiren Manki living on Ayodhya hills and in villages dotting the forests around Belpahari. Hardly any of them have got work for the mandatory 100 days.

“I got my job card three years ago. For all these years my application for work was pending with the gram panchayat. Last month we got work for laying village roads. That was for 15 days but I haven’t received any money yet,” says Balaram Hansda of Barnajara village. “As far as I know the money has gone back. No one knows when work will start again. Worse whether it will start at all.”

After working for four days, Ukil Murmu, his wife Binti and father Gayeshwar from were paid Rs 1,070. That is all that they have to live off for the remaining 361 days of the year till they get some more work. “There is no more work now. We don’t have any land of our now. In this part farming is possible only after rains. We have to beg for jobs from the landowners. There are hundreds of tillers like us who are looking for work. The 100 days work could have helped us live better,” says Ukil.

(With inputs from Arnab Ganguly in Kolkata)

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

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