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HT: Mobilising themselves against a callous Admn

Hindustan Times, March 7, 1997

CHAMIALA (Tehri Garhwal), March 6 (From Amitabh Shukla) The sleepy town of Chamiala in Tehri Garhwal district of Uttar Pradesh and the neighbouring areas have all what a nature lover would ask for. Beautiful mountains, rivers and simple hill folks, who treat all outsiders as guests. However, what the Bhilangana block, the administrative division under which the area falls, lacks is a transparent and accountable administration which can identify itself with the people.

Poverty and lack of employment opportunities has forced majority of the adult males to migrate to the plains, mainly the bigger cities to earn a livelihood. So only women folks are left behind to cope with a callous administration. As a result they are not only fighting against poverty and hardships associated with life in the mountains, but also corruption at the grassroots level under the banner of Chetna Andolan.

The inept administrative authorities have made no attempt over the years to make the people aware about the different programmes meant to alleviate poverty in the rural areas, instead they have colluded with the vested interests to pocket the money meant for the people.

A clear example of this was evident when women activists approached the block officials with a list of people requesting registration under Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), they were informed that a list had already been prepared by the block, and a number of works had already been executed. However when those people whose names were there in the official list as beneficiaries were contacted, it was found that they had no knowledge of the scheme. They had received neither any family cards nor any employment under the EAS.

approximately 700 cards were made, but never issued to the people. When the activists repeatedly demanded information on the issue of cards, the block officials finally thrust a sheaf of signed but empty EAS family cards into the hands of the activists.

In Keparse village, officially maximum works have been commissioned. However, inquiries revealed that work was entrusted to contractors and only a handful of people were provided employment, mainly those related to the block pramukh (head). Interestingly, the official records suggest that 40 cards have been issued in the village.

Similarly, in Maikot and Gauna villages, where block of ficials claim that EAS work has taken place, the people who have done the work have repeatedly complained that no payment has been made, though a year has passed since the work was done.

Many other cases of official apathy and corruption have also come into light. The Kothiada canal which is supposed to be 16km-long still has no water though the Government has spent lakhs on it. Abal Singh Bisht, the village head of Maikot says that the agriculturists are suffering as seven gram sabhas were supposed to be irrigated by this canal.

Similarly in Sunar village, a foundation-stone was laid for an ITI long time back, but not a brick has been laid forcing the prospective students to go to far off areas for their studies.

Despite sanctioned plan, no road has been built between Sendur to Patgaon which is a distance of 20 kms. Jasbir Singh. the gram pradhan of Sunar complains that women and other people have to tread long distance in the hills to replenish their stock with essential items.

On the educational front too, the State has hardly shown its visibility. For instance in the Kanya Pathsala of Chamiala there are only seven students, though the number of teachers is seven.