A strange village this! Even with three police stations, three gram panchayats, three panchayat samitis, two zilla parishads, three MLAs, two MPs — one of them a Union minister — Titidanga village does not have a single primary health centre or a kilometre of metalled road.
All five deep tubewells in the village are defunct, depriving residents of potable water. To reach Titidanga, which is about 320 km to the north of Kolkata, one has to trudge for seven kilometres through the bank of the Bramhani river, which sends the villagers packing on top of trees every monsoon.
“Everyone talks of development. What development? We have to dig the riverbed to collect drinking water in summer. During monsoon, we have to stay on the branches of trees as our homes remain inundated,” said Rahamat Ali (71), one of the 2,000 residents of the village.
“We are used to bagful of promises before polls. This year too, leaders or their representatives will come to seek our votes. But our lot will remain the same. If someone takes ill here or a fire breaks out somewhere, we only watch helplessly,” said Rafatulla Sheikh. another villager.
“The riverbank is just two feet wide, insufficient for even two bicycles to move side by side. How can an ambulance or a fire engine enter our village?” said Adori Bibi, a homemaker. A few years ago, teenager Badal Sheikh died when he fell into the river while returning home from a local market.
The authorities seem surprised. “I can’t believe that after 64 years of Independence such a village exists in our country,” said Purnima Das, sabhadipati of Murshidabad zilla parishad.
Netai Mal, saha-sabhadipati of Birbhum zilla parishad, said, “Plans to build metalled roads to the village have been made. We also have plans of providing fresh drinking water there through the Sajaldhara project.”
Scepticism rules Titidanga. “Vote ashbe aar jabe... amra eki thakbo…(elections will come and go, but we will remain the same),” said Latika Khatun.
Titidanga has been carved between three police stations — Nalhati (30 km away), Margram (42 km away) and Khargram (50 km away). The three panchayat samitis are Rampurhat-II, Nalhati-II and Nagar. The three panchayats are Dunigram, Sitalgram and Jhilli. Titidanga has two MPs because of this rather unusual administrative map — Pranab Mukherjee of the Congress and Shatabdi Roy of the Trinamool. The three MLAs are from three different parties — Asit Mal of Congress from Hasan assembly constituency, Dipak Chatterjee of Forward Bloc from Nalhati and Mukul Mandal of CPI(M) from Nabagram.
“I have tried to deliver projects in my constituency. But I won’t claim I have been successful everywhere. I hope to implement some new projects so that residents of the other two constituencies can also benefit,” said Chatterjee.