Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bargarh, July 16:
Everybody knows about the ‘cut off area’ in Malkangiri district of Odisha. But not many people know that there is another ‘cut off area’, though not quite of the same dimension that the one in the Maoist infested district has, in Sambalpur district.
The cluster of six villages – Kuda Tabda, Jampalli, Papakhai, Gunderpur, Amlipalli and Mahda in Gunderpur panchayat under Dhankouda block in Odisha’s Sambalpur district – having a total circumference of 10 km and situated on an island in the river Mahanadi downstream of Hirakud dam, like the cluster of 150 odd villages in the Balimela reservoir in Chitrakonda area, is encircled by water on all sides.
Unlike its Malkangiri counterpart though, this one is barely 10 km from the district headquarters town of Sambalpur.
With no road connectivity, country boats are the only means of communication for people for commuting to Bargarh and Sambalpur for their daily needs.
The villagers have a harrowing time with the advent of rains as the river swells to its brim, leaving ferry boats as the only means to carry patients to the other side even in cases of medical emergency.
“We are living in a cut-off region. Our only means to reach out to the outer world are ferry boats. People of other villages do not wish to marry off their sons and daughters in our villages because of this connectivity problem,” said Mohan Sahoo, a villager of Kuda Tabda.
“Though we are only 10 kilometers away from our district headquarters, we mostly depend on Bheden block of Bargarh district for our health, education and other needs”, said another villager Arun Sahoo of the same village.
“We have been demanding a bridge to link us with the mainland but nothing has happened so far,” said another villager Bhagban Saraf. “Rairakhol MLA Rohit Pujari has demanded a road bridge for our panchayat in the assembly on Tuesday. Let’s see when it materializing,” he said, more in hope than belief.
The cluster’s population of around 6000 is mostly poor and largely depends on paddy cultivation and fishing for their livelihood.
The river Mahanadi bifurcates into two streams downstream of Hirakud dam encompassing this island on all sides and later merging into one further downstream.
People of these villages are devoid of basic amenities like education and healthcare, a government run primary school being the only visible amenity available.