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Kandhamal tribals protest lack of road; threaten to boycott polls

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Reported by Simanchal Pattanaik
Phulbani, Mar 14:

Tribals of Bilabadi gram panchayat under Khajuripada block in Phulbani district have decided to boycott the coming elections in the state in protest against the Odisha government’s failure to provide roads to the panchayat even 66 years after independence if the government fails to fulfill their seven-point charter of demands..kandhamal

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the action committee comprising 11 self-help groups (SHGs) at Kutibari on Thursday.

The members at the meeting alleged that while the Bilabadi panchayat. comprising 32 tribal villages and situated at a distance of 17 kms from Khajuripada block, has no road communication to Bohugram. As a result, the tribals of the panchayat have to use the energy sapping Kakendri ghat road to reach the district and sub divisional headquarters.

Apart from road communication, the tribals of this panchayat had also been deprived of basic facilities like health and education since its formation in 1948, the members pointed out.

The demands are, construction of Panisal-Kutibari and Panisal-Bilabadi roads, electrification of 32 villages of Bilabadi panchayat, construction of hospital, supply of PDS items, appointment of teachers, supply of drinking water and timely payment of NREGS wages.

“Apart from boycotting the general elections, we would stage indefinite blockade of Boudh-Phulbani road at Panisal if the state government fails to fulfil our demands”, said president of the Committee Sampati Mallick and secretary Bidyabati Kanhar.