Khairamari village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district has never had a road, except a dirt track that the government cleared out 20 years ago.
Jallish Molla traces the lack of a road in his village to pre-independence India.
“After 77 years passed, the government finally made a mud road but even now, that has not solved any problem”, he says.
The ‘road’ Molla refers to is a three-kilometre long dirt track which is used by around 2,000 persons from at least five villages daily. It has not been repaired or levelled for 20 years now.
Molla’s community has written to subsequent village heads over the years but none of them acted on the problem. They also approached the Member of Legislative Assembly from their constituency but nothing came of the application.
“It becomes very difficult, especially in the monsoon. I have often slipped and injured myself on my way home from work,” says Abdul Khaled, a resident. Nesatun’s video shows that the path is waterlogged and mucky even in the non-rainy months. School children are particularly vulnerable; young boys and girls have to use this dirt track to go to school.
Nesatun mentions that the farmers in the village are particularly affected, the condition of the road makes it difficult for them to carry their harvest from the fields to the market in time. “We need a concrete road because tractors cannot take this road, and so, they cannot be used in the fields,” says Khaled. The use of tractors is central to mechanised agriculture today and the lack of one makes the farming labour-intensive, something that the community cannot always afford to do. While it is a well known fact that vehicles, especially the tyres, get damaged when they ply on bad roads, studies show that bad roads, meaning bumpy rides, also affect the quality of the farm produce. The quality is also affected by the time taken to make the trip to the market. As a result, farmers incur losses not only for vehicle maintenance but also on the market price of their produce.
Poor mobility also affects the livelihoods of construction labourers and other daily wage workers who depend on urban centres to find work. Bad roads and the consequent lack of public transport curbs women’s mobility as well. Healthcare is also affected when a dirt track is the only way to reach health centres and hospitals.
The West Bengal government is reportedly set to build 5,000 kilometres of rural roads between November 2018 and March 2019, and the state government will bear 40 percent of the costs. Even in December 2017, the state government had announced that it would build 13,000 kilometres of rural roads before the panchayat elections scheduled for April 2018. However, our Community Correspondents found more than one instance of broken and submerged roads in the state, and reported on the inaction of the local administration. In 2017-18, West Bengal had only met 65 percent of its target under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
Support Jallesh Molla and his community by calling the Panchayat Pradhan of Khairamari, Hadikul Islam at +91-9609423728 and urge him to get the road built under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
Video by Community Correspondent Nesatun Khatun
Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team