Monday, August 25, 2014

Indravati boat tragedies haunt cut-off villagers

Times of India, Aug 24, 2014
,TNN | Aug 24, 2014, 01.33 PM IST
BHAWANIPATNA: The world has come crashing down for Phulmati Majhi, 28, of Padepadar village of Thuamul Rampur block in Kalahandi district. She lost her father, husband and son when the boat they were travelling in capsized in the Indravati reservoir on August 20. They were all going to work in a factory at Tikri near Kasipur in Rayagada district.

"My husband, Anta Majhi, 32, used to earn from fishing in the reservoir. On the fateful day, my son Ramesh, 15, had gone with him with his matriculation certificate to get a job in the factory. My father, Jayati Majhi, 55, had also accompanied them," said Phulmati. Their bodies, besides that of Bhuban Sahu, 48, were fished out from the river after 48 hours of rescue operation.

Phulmati has received Rs 15,000 as compensation from the Red Cross fund and Lanjigarh MLA Balabhadra Majhi has announced to arrange Rs 1.5 lakh for each victim from Chief Minister's Relief Fund. The assistance cannot take away Phulmati's sorrow. "My family is devastated. I have a 12-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter. How can I feed them? What do I do?" Phulmati asked.

The recent drowning is not an isolated case. According to official records, 78 people have drowned in the reservoir in boat mishaps since 1999. Unofficial reports put the toll at 202 in15 years.

Around 3,000 people live in 20 villages of three gram panchayats ? Malijubang, Talnagi and Adri ? in Thuamul Rampur block. These villages are situated on the hills surrounded by water and have to cross the river by 80 wooden boats from eight different ghats.

These villages are practically cut off throughout the year and there is no electricity connection though some have solar lights. People have to cross the Indravati for livelihood and health check-up. Locals said teachers hardly attend the school because it is dangerous to cross the river.

"These villages come under Indravati project affected area. The people have refused to move out of the reservoir area even after getting compensation," said collector (Kalahandi) Bijaya Ketan Upadhyay.

The government has opened schools and anganwadi centres in the area and had provided four motorboats, he added. Only one motorboat is now functioning. "Two new boats of Rs 8 lakh each will be provided in the area within 10 days," said Upadhyay.

The foundation stone for Indravati project was laid by the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai on April 4, 1978, at an estimated cost of Rs 208 crore. The total expenditure went upto Rs 1,427 crore when the project was completed near Mukhiguda.

The project with 600 MW power generation capacity and irrigation benefits is located in Kalahandi and Nabarangpur districts. The reservoir is 43 km long and nine km wide at its widest point. The maximum depth of water in the reservoir is 71 metres.

After construction of the dams and formation of a reservoir, 97 villages (44 from undivided Koraput district and 53 from Kalahandi) were affected and 32,530.87 acre of land acquired displacing 17,000 people.

Displacement was carried out in four phases ?1989, 1990,1991 and 1992. Those who did not opt to be displaced are still living in the villages. A 160-metre-long hanging bridge at an estimated cost of Rs 14.5 crore has been sanctioned by water resource development department to connect Kenduguda Ghat with Chepta Ghat in the area.

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