At a time when the State and the Centre are boasting of taking a slew of developmental measures for the welfare of the indigenous communities, here in Similipal Tiger Reserve, the inhabitants have to take up the job of repairing the road on their own as their repeated requests to the administration failed to evoke any response.
The low-pressure triggered incessant rain for the last three days had washed away certain portion of the 75 km of road stretch between Jashipur and Astakuanr on the extreme end of the sanctuary paralysing the lives of around 12,000 tribals.
The tribal forest dwellers said the road condition was so bad that neither ambulance nor even a cycle could reach their villages. PDS supplies were hit as the ration was not transported to the area.
According to Barehipani Sarpanch Jujher Bansingh and representatives from all the three Gram Panchayats the administration had been informed about the problem and the urgent need to repair the road. But no action was taken.
Finding no other option, members of all the 42 Gram Sabhas took a decision to take up the repair work on their own.
Around 800 villagers assembled together and started their work on Sunday using gravels and other locally available materials. By the time the report was written, they have repaired around 20 km stretch of road and the work is on.
It may be noted here that Similipal is a unique landscape rich with biodiversity that has been managed by Gram Sabhas. There are 43 villages under three Gram Panchayats which are connected by the single forest route.
The road had been managed by the Forest Department since long and after recognition under Forest Right Act five buses are regularly plying through the sanctuary to provide road communication facility to the inhabitants under the Biju Gaon Gadi Yojana.
According to Dr Hemant Kumar Sahoo, a researcher of tribals lives, who works with the community inside the sanctuary, the unique endeavour taken by the villagers to take up the road repairing work is a mark of unity among the inhabitants who work in solidarity to protect and maintain the biodiversity inside the sanctuary.
“The unity among the villagers is reflected in several ways contributing to the development of the biosphere and their own lives and livelihood. Recently, villagers of all the 42 Gram Sabhas under the banner of Similipal Vikas Parishad (SVP) observed Similipal Samaroh and took oath to work in unison for maintaining the biodiversity and forest cover of the pristinely sanctuary.
SVP is a federation of 43 GSs to support forest conservation and management work,” said Dr. Sahu SVP convenor of Mohaty Birua said the initiative taken by the villagers to repair the road is a token of their unity.
“We want to convey a message that if the government does not come up with a permanent solution to ensure proper road communication facility with an immediate effect, it will be responsible for the consequences,” he said.