Amid the India-China border skirmishes, tribal villagers in Meghalaya residing on the edge of India-Bangladesh have asked the Indian government to give away their four villages and its population to Bangladesh if the government is not willing to construct an all-weather road for them.
The tribesmen of Hingaria, Huroi, Lahalein and Lejri villages have been moving from pillar to post to draw the attention of those in power both at New Delhi and Shillong to construct the Rymbai-Bataw-Borkhat-Sonapur Road for many years but their pleas is yet to see the light of the day.
The “pathetic” and “deplorable” condition of the road has affected the livelihood of the hoi polloi in the four villages. It has come to a point where the very existence of these people is threatened because of the economic and developmental issues which the villages face.
The absence of a proper road, mobile connectivity and proper medical facilities have crippled the lives of more than 5,000 people residing in these villages. It has come to a point where the residents have to rely on Bangladesh for their survival since the government is least interested in these border villages.
“Prima facie it is clear that the lives of the border population do not matter at all to the government and we are being used just for votes. If the government really considers us as Indians and is serious about our problems, the government should immediately address the road problem and interim measures should be taken up to ease the problem, failing which the people will have no choice but to take extreme steps,” said Kynjaimon Amse, the spokesperson of the four villages.
The four villages fall under the jurisdiction of the East Jaintia Hills district, which is located nearly 200 km from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong.
“The people in the villages are frustrated and tired,” Amse said, informing that the tribesmen had recently held a meeting and discussed on the plight of the people and their way ahead, given the fact that the government is not serious enough to build the road for us.
“It was at the meeting, that the village Dorbar (council) and its more than 5,000 plus population have decided that it is better for the government to give the four villages and its 5,000 plus population to Bangladesh if the government is not willing to construct the road for us,” he said.
“The people have also decided that the four villages will write to the Government of Bangladesh to request for construction of the road for us since the Government of India and Government of Meghalaya have failed to understand our problems,” he said.
“The world may be facing lockdown for the first time but the people of the above-stated border villages have been in lockdown since their existence as they are cut off without road and communication and no one knows what is going on in these villages,” Amse pointed out.
Highlighting the “pathetic and deplorable condition” of the Rymbai-Bataw-Borkhat-Sonapur Road, the spokesperson said, “There have been instances where patients lost their lives because they did not reach the hospital on time. There are also reports that the people cross the border to reach Bangladesh for medical treatment. The farmers in the villages are the worst sufferers as they have to shed huge amount of money just for transporting the products to the nearest market and sometimes due to the bad condition of the road they have to sell their products at a very nominal rate to Bangladeshi traders.”
“Almost all the problems of the people in the villages are linked to the bad condition of the road, and we believe that unless the road problem is solved there can be no development and growth in the villages,” he iterated.
Explaining that the residents of the four villages have moved from pillar to post to draw the attention of the government to construct and build the road for them, Amse said, “The government has least interest. We have been writing to all government functionaries right from the Deputy Commissioner to the Chief Minister and Governor, but all we got was false promise. We have also been writing to the PMO, home ministry, NITI Aayog, finance ministry, North Eastern Council and many other offices of the Union government for intervention. However, even they are not interested to see to our needs.”
“Even after the matter has taken up by the high court of Meghalaya and [National Human Rights Commission of India], the governments at both levels have been reluctant to the needs of the people. The proposal worth Rs 123 crore for construction of the road has been lying with the DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) Ministry since April 2019. However, till date the ministry has not even discussed the proposal, hence the same is not approved,” Amse further explained.
“We have been writing to all concerned for speedy approval of the proposal, but again no response and as such, the pain and suffering of the people continues. The chief minister and deputy chief minister, when we met them, had assured that the project will be approved. However, all the assurances have shown no result. It only seems that the state government is not serious about the road and did not take up the matter with the DoNER ministry for consideration,” Amse said.
“The people of the border villages are very angry and disappointed with the step-motherly attitude of the government towards the 5,000 plus population. The government has failed to understand the problems and suffering of the people. The absence of a proper road has, in fact, violated the very fundamental right to life of the people and also the basic human rights. The present condition of the road is the root cause of all the problems and unless the road is constructed the lives of the people will be just like mere animal existence. The people are being remembered just during elections and not after that,” he rued.