Four decades have passed since waterlogging destroyed the only road out of Inayatpur, but the government has not implemented any rural development scheme to rebuild it yet.
In the past 40 years, West Bengal has seen nine governments hold power at the State Legislature, seven of which were led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) which had a 34-year long stint and two led by the incumbent Trinamool Congress. Over the years, both parties, along with others in the fray, have blamed one another for problems of law and order, infrastructure and economic stagnation, while the people of the state suffered.
Take, for instance, the residents of Inayatpur village in Malda district who have not had road connectivity for almost 40 years. The only road which gave them access to the nearest urban centre and to schools and colleges was damaged by flooding and waterlogging in 1980. “We have approached the panchayat, the MLA and the MP but they have not done anything yet,” says Murshed, a resident. The road, or where it used to be, is merely a 200 metre stretch but the resources to rebuild it have not been deployed by the concerned authorities.
The lack of a road does not only hamper local mobility; rural connectivity is a crucial factor influencing other development parameters. Access to healthcare is one example. “If someone is sick, we take them to the health facility on a bed (makeshift stretcher) or in a small car if it can ply through the dirt track,” says Murshed. Ambulances cannot reach the village. Neither can people go outside of the village to study, work, pray or avail essential public service facilities with ease.
In Tirupati, a retired Indian Railway Traffic Service employee recently appealed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to direct the local authorities to build a pucca road leading up to his house which was at a distance from the main settlement. While his applications over four years to district-level authorities had gone unheard, the NHRC directed the State Human Rights Commission to look into the matter.
The case spurred a debate on whether a road is a human right. But when the lack of a road cuts people off from rights like the rights to medical relief and education, the importance of road connectivity cannot be undermined.
Inayatpur has a population of around 11,000 people, all of whom are cut off from essential facilities and services due to the lack of a road. “We either walk through the damaged and inundated road or we take a detour”, says Aminur Rahman, leveling the dirt track that leads up to his house with a spade. Dirt tracks are of little use, especially in the heavy monsoons when they turn to muck and become extremely dangerous.
In another part of Malda, faced by the same problem, residents had taken to ingenious, and sadly, dangerous ways of bypassing the inundated, barely-there road. They were using bamboo ladders to get on top of terraces of other people’s homes and crossing the inundated stretch by hopping from one terrace to another.
The community in Inayatpur has approached all the authorities they could but apart from workers dumping some road construction material, there has been no progress. The residents want a metalled road to be built and the adjacent pond to be filled or to have an embankment built along its banks to stop the water from overflowing. Community Correspondent Soria Bano has also approached the panchayat head, Farhana Bibi, who has assured that she has written to the higher authority for funds under a scheme. It is appalling that in all these years, no rural roads or development scheme was implemented in the village.
But when a community is denied a basic facility like a road for almost four decades, it is difficult for them to be heartened by assurances. It is also extremely discouraging and demoralising, pushing people to think twice before demanding their rights.
Support the community by calling Farhana Bibi, the Panchayat Pradhan of Uttar Dariapur, Malda, at +91-9563401156 and urging her to help build a road in Inayatpur with immediacy.
Video by Community Correspondent Soria Bano
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team