Once a Maoist bastion, Boro Kalshibhanga village situated in the Jugalmahal area in West Midnapur district of West Bengal is facing acute water crisis and unemployment.
More than 400 families of Kurmi Mahato, the Other Backward Class (OBC) community residing here at Kalshi Bhanga have to trudge at least a kilometre to get drinking water. During summer the water crisis worsens.
Most women of the village work as potato pluckers and people for whom they work have now resorted to paying them wages in potatoes instead of cash. They receive 15 kilograms of potates as payment.
Kabita, a villager after storing the 15 kgs of potato in her house said, “These days owners on whose field we go for plucking potatoes don’t pay us with money, they give us potatoes. We at least can eat them with rice.”
Lokhikanto Mahato an elder said, “The water crisis is extreme here. We had a well which is 50 feet deep but there is no water in it. Moreover, we don’t have toilets. In a village of 400 families, less than 10 families have proper toilets.”
Villagers are also faced with lack of employment opportunities, especially after the Covid-19- imposed lockdown. Locals say the few men work as masons but since the lockdown work has decreased drastically.
While narrating their ordeal a villager named Anil Mahato told, “Unemployment is our major concern. We men have nothing to do. At times we work as mason workers and other such things but mostly we stay unemployed. The rice that we get from ration has helped us a lot but what else? The refilling of cylinder costs rupees 900, we have shifted to ‘chulas’ again because we have no alternative.”
Other villages too like Pathuri, Pairachali, Golokchok etc are among the other villages facing a similar crisis.
Jungal Mahal belt that consists of West Midnapore, Jhargram, Bankura and Purulia was primarily ruled by the Left Front government, which was then uprooted by the Mamata Banerjee’s government in 2011.
The total population of Jungalmahal only in West Midnapur is approx 4.5 to 5 lakh.
However, the mud houses in this area have both Trinamool Congress as well as Bharatiya Janata Party’s slogans and symbols written on them.
The first phase of polling will be held in five districts and 30 assembly seats that includes Purulia, West Midnapore Part I, Bankura Part I, East Midnapore Part I and Jhargram.
The second phase to be held in four districts and 30 assembly seats that includes Bankura Part II, East MidnaporePart II, West Midnapore Part II and South 24 Parganas Part I.