Keonjhar: Ferrying in country boats across Hadagad dam is routine for tribals living in forest pockets around the dam under Hatadihi block in Keonjhar district.
Though the regular boat ride is fraught with risk, they have no other alternative while the administration, forest and water resources departments are doing nothing to alleviate their commuting woes.
The dam is surrounded by hills and forests. Tribal residents of Dalki, Pitanabh, Ratanmara and Jhanpasi have to go across the dam every day on work.
“There is no direct or shortcut route to go across the dam. If the people avoid taking boat rides, they have to trek miles to reach their destinations,” some locals said.
The tribals expressed displeasure over the daily commuting problem. They blamed the forest and water resources departments and the administration for not taking note of their plight and not making regular boat service available to them.
The forest department has made provisions of motorised boat, but it is meant only for VIPs or tourists, the tribals claimed.
All these hamlets are located inside the Hadagad reserve forest. For the 100-odd tribal families that live in the area, life has been virtually a daily struggle.
Another problem is that they have not been provided land under the Forest Dwellers’ Act. Their livelihood solely depends on collecting minor forest produce, sal leaves and shifting cultivation.
Seventy years have passed since Independence and crores of rupees have been spent for development of tribals, but there have been no visible changes in the traditional lifestyle of these people.
Locals lamented that the government has not laid all-weather roads to the villages. They are bound to depend on boats to go to markets along with children and sometimes even with patients. Boats, though risky, come handy for them to bring PDS items from the panchayat office.
Lamba Badra, a tribal resident, said, “Each family has a small boat. All use boats in the dam every day. Many boats have become unfit for use. Due to financial constraints, boats are not being repaired.”
Baira Badra, another resident, said if the government sorts out the commuting problems, they will be a little relieved while Pangala Badra demanded launch service in the dam. PNN