Barely 50 yards from the counting centre at Jhargram Raj College, Shiela Dakua, a housewife, 32, was busy cooking meals in a fire oven at her thatched hutment. As her mother-in-law announced the news of Mamata Banerjee sweeping the polls, she jumped in joy.
Unlike other women in the neighborhood, Dakua had never taken keen interest in active politics, although she had cast her vote to her party. But there was a reason for her joy in Mamata’s victory. The poor woman blessed with two infant children feels frequent bandhs in the area would end and that would pave way for her husband’s return home.
“Frequent bandhs claimed my husband’s job who worked as security guard with a local paper mill,” says the women boiling eggs, as her two children cling on to her. The mill ran into losses and shut its shutters. All employees lost their jobs. Sheila’s husband, Niranjan Dakua left for Kolkata to eke out a living. “Survival has become so tough these days,” she rued.
Ever since the Maoists-Marxists clashes began in Jangalmahal — bordering areas of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore — the entire area, especially the business town, Jhragram has witnessed frequent bandhs. District administration reports revealed that Jangalmahal has witnessed 278 bandhs since January 2009.
“The bandhs, mostly called at the behest of Maoists and sympathiser parties like Trinamool, have spelled doom on the local business and robbed jobs of the local people,” said a CPI(M) leader refusing to be named.
Trinamool West Midnapore district general secretary Ramesh Sarkar instantly denied the allegation. “Who is Mao? We do not know him,” he bluntly confronted.
“Maoists’ and Marxists’ and brothers since ages, and they have driven away our cadres from villages in a planned way to ensure our defeat,” he said.
The bandhs have certainly spell doom on the local economy. D Singh, a dealer in metal ore and native of Jhargram since birth, has recently shifted to Jamshedpur. “There is nothing left in here now,” he said.
Statistic reveals that of the 10 rice mill, two are shut due to unwarranted pressure from rebel groups. Similar is the condition of other industries.
Back in her home, Shiela Dakua flashes the victory sign. “Am sure Didi will do something to help my husband get his job here,” she said.