Report by Badal Tah; Rayagada: “I am born and brought up here. Even my father was also born here. Due to stark poverty in Kashipur, famous for starvation deaths due to consumption of mango kernel, sago-palm pulp, tamarind seeds, wild roots & tubers, our forefathers migrated to Rayagada, which was then a sub-division of erstwhile Koraput district, in search of work and started staying in the periphery of Rayagada town with some of his fellow men forty years back. They named this habitation as Oduguda”, said Sri Santosh Hikaka aged about 24 years, the only highest qualified tribal jobless youth with a B.Tech degree.
There are twenty five Kandha tribe households in this habitation, which is hardly half a kilometre away from NH-326; but devoid of any road. The homogeneous habitation comes under ward no-24 of Rayagada Municipality. “In case of anybody gets affected by a serious disease, we still carry the affected in a charpoy to the road point with all kind of difficulty. The school children avoid going to nearby school especially in rainy season. And this is exactly the reason one does not find many educated children, especially the girls”, said Smt Kuni Huika, wife of Bisi Huika.
“We inhabit on this land since last forty years and very many times approached the concerned authorities in Municipality and Tehsil offices to give us entitlement over the homestead land; but in the plea of gochar land, the authorities cared damn to our representations. Recently during last April we have even approached the Ex-Tribal Minister Sri Lal Bihari Himirika to have a final settlement as far as the homestead land is concerned. Himirika, who is the present MLA of Rayagada constituency comprising of Rayagada and Kashipur blocks and District Planning Board Chairman, has assured us as usual to look into the matter; but we have neither heard from him nor seen any action from his officers” complained a few tribal women named Sarada Wadaka, Kuni Huika, Lalita Hikaka, Nilai Himirika, Linga Bidika, who after lot of inhibitions expressed their anguish before this correspondent during his visit to this habitation on the eve of Self Government Day.
In spite of residing in the place for last forty years, they are not able to realise land entitlement in spite of boasting by “Mo Jami, Mo Dhia” scheme of the state government. In the absence of a homestead patta, their children face difficulties in availing caste certificates. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana(PMAY) will be a day dream in the absence of Record-of-Right(R-O-R). No piped water supply to the village as right to safe drinking water from municipality. There is only one tubewell, which oozes out muddy water. So, almost all the household barge upon the tubewell sunk exclusively for the Anganwadi Centre. Amidst a no-no for basic entitlements, swachhata drive through Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban is also unimaginable. So only option left is open defecation. Some of the inhabitants expressed that they are not at all interested to install Indian Household Latrines(IHLs) in reimbursement mode as suggested by Municipality. According to Santosh, though the land is Gochar under Kotlaguda mouza, its status can be changed and it is not a big deal for the authorities if they are really concerned with issues of poor tribals.
Similar is the case of Kotlaguda Jhodia Sahi which is inhabited by twenty four tribal household all belonging to Jhodia which is synonymous with Paraja. One can still call these two habitations as villages as there is no facility available as that of an urban area. The street lights are not functional for last few months. The metalled concrete road which traverses through the bilinear houses is much above the varendah levels of the houses causing rain water gushing into the houses during rains. Like Oduguda, all the inhabitants are landless and are commodities in the town’s labour market. A few youths are skilled like tractor drivers, helpers, masons, plumbers and rod-binders in the construction industry.
“Though they are the backbone of Rayagada town and provide the major labour force, their condition is precarious like darkness reigns beneath the Dweep itself. Self Government Day does not bear any meaning for them as they are not at all aware about the existence and relevance of this day. They are almost engulfed with political and administrative abuse; but we do have some hope now under the dynamic leadership of Smt Shantiprava Pradhan, who has recently taken over as new Executive Officer of Rayagada Municipality. Being herself a tribal and possessing an OAS, which was lacking for quite long in the set-up, she will certainly empathise with the poor”, said Sri Ajay Rath, Convenor of Rayagada Nagarika Manch, who accompanied this correspondent to both these tribal habitations on the eve of Self Government Day.
Responding to the issues of Oduguda and Kotlaguda Jhadia Sahi, Pradhan has assured to look into the matter at her earliest.