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Democracy drowns in Hoogly river

The swirling waters of river Hoogly have swallowed the democratic rights of 1,400 villagers of this tiny island of Charjatra Siddhi that falls in Bolagarh assembly constituency of Hoogly district.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2009 00:46 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

The swirling waters of river Hoogly have swallowed the democratic rights of 1,400 villagers of this tiny island of Charjatra Siddhi that falls in Bolagarh assembly constituency of Hoogly district.

Ever since Hoogly river changed its course in 1970, the island village became geographically closer to the Nadia district on the opposite side of the river. It was then decreed that the voters there register themselves as residents of Nadia district. The villagers refused to comply.

Result: their names were struck off the electoral rolls.

The villagers of Charjatra have not voted since the 1981 general elections. They may be denied a chance to exercise their franchise for a long time to come, till the judiciary takes a final view on the villagers’ plea to stick to their Hoogly district address.

“We have been residing on this island for more than 60 years now and we were always a part of the Hooghly district. Now, since the river changed its course a little we are being asked to be part of the Nadia district. We cannot accept this proposal since it will bring unnecessary harassments for us in dealing with the administration. Police stations, health centres, gram panchayats — every thing will become remote if we become residents of Nadia,” Bhagabat Mahato, a septuagenarian, told HT. They had also approached the judiciary to get justice but the case is pending till date.

But worse, their long drawn struggle is costing the villagers dear.

Reducing aid and spending on development projects, the Hooghly district administration had recently stopped providing mid-day mills to the only school in the island. The polio vaccination programme, too, came to a halt some six months ago. Does the village have a future? No one knows the answer as of now.

All that the villagers know is that they cannot get a mobile phone connections in their own names as no one has a photo identity card with an address proof.

According to the last Census held in 2001, the island village was a part of the Hooghly district (JL number 30, permanent location code 01878700). It came under the jurisdiction of the Chandrahati post office and Mogra police station area of Hooghly district. Even today, residents of this 100-year-old village, get their rations from Hoogly district. The only school in the island is run by the Hooghly district administration.

If anybody needs an address proof, all they can get is a letter from Bhuban Pramanik, MLA from Bolagarh constituency of Hooghly district.

The villagers recently approached the Trinamool Congress for help. Its general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Roy described their plight as “unthinkable, unimaginable and inhuman,” and shot off a letter to Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami. He is still to hear from the Nirvachan Sadan.

On the other hand, West Bengal state Chief Electoral Officer Debasis Sen said: “The village was included in Nadia district. But some villagers opposed that proposal and went to court. Now that the case is pending before the judiciary, I should not comment.”