Lalgarh despairs, opens up to Chidambaram

Sunday, April 4, 2010

LALGARH - Residents of this Maoist-stronghold in West Bengal Sunday poured out their tales of poverty to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, saying they had little hopes of a better tomorrow.

Chidambaram, who flew into West Midnapore district Sunday morning, beckoned to some curious onlookers, including women, who had gathered near the Lalgarh police station.

With the securitymen throwing a ring around him, Chidambaram spoke to the locals, asking them whether they were getting the benefits of development schemes.

“I told him that we don’t have electricity. There is electricity everywhere, but not in our area. The government is not helping us. But he did not seem to listen properly,” said a woman, who was one of those who interacted with the minister.

“I also told him that there is water problem. There is not a single pond in our village,” she said.

Another woman resident seemed pessimistic and angry. “A lot of ministers come and go. They only talked to us before the media and got their photos clicked. But there was no change in our condition”.

The woman said they told Chidambaram that none of their problems have been redressed. “People cannot earn their livelihood. There are only disturbances. Our children cannot go out. Shops and markets remain closed.”

Availability of drinking water, the health infrastructure, the drainage situation and the distance of schools from their homes were among the issues that cropped up during the interaction.

The minister also proceeded to a nearby village road and went to a house to see the living conditions.

“Very, very poor people live here. But they abhor the Naxalites (Maoists). They understand the difference between the government and the Naxalites. When I asked them they said they had no education, current, no medical care, no rations. They are agitated. I told them I will convey this to the state government,” Chidambaram said.

Another middle-aged woman, who earns her living by selling forest wood, said: “We don’t know who is a Naxalite. We bring wood from the forests. We often go hungry.”

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