Mrunal Manmay Dash

Complacency is never a good thing especially when it comes to politics. Because in a democracy, the power rests in the hands of voters who can topple any government they want.

In Odisha, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD)-led State government has been in power for almost 25 years. But that seems to have led to complacency, so much so that the voters in many places have reportedly started to feel like they have been cheated.

BJD leaders had gone to the villages during the last Assembly election in 2019. The people, who felt blessed to find the leader up close, put the problems faced by them in front of the leaders. The politicians also promised that everything would happen this time. Now it is election time again, but the problems faced by the people remain the same making people wonder when they will be resolved.

Even after 75 years of Independence, the villagers of Badamba Raulasahi do not seem to know what a pucca road is. The village, eight kilometres from the block, cannot be accessed by a four-wheeler. Serious patients and pregnant women have to be carried to the hospital on shoulder. The situation gets worse in the rainy season.

Not just roads, people in Raulasahi are also desperate for drinking water. Locals allege that before the last election, MLA Debi Mishra visited the village frequently, promising pucca roads. But once the elections are over and he got elected, he very conveniently forgot all his promises and left Raulasahi in the lurch.

The same thing is repeating again this year. As the 2024 elections near, MLA Mishra is frequenting their area making promises yet again. But the locals know, these promises are all but fake.

“The politicians have continuously cheated us for the last 25 years. The associates, who come with the MLA, write down our problems and assure us to address them. But in reality, no developmental work has been done in our area,” alleged a local of Raulapur Lily Swain.

Asked about the problems faced by Raulasahi locals, local Sarpanch Rajkishore Puhan said, “We will shortly take up the work of Mandiapalli-Raulasahi road. We will make it a concrete road.”

A similar kind of situation can be seen at Govindpur village under Cuttack’s Mahanga block. Roads are filled with mud and potholes. And in between, a narrow path passes through the farmlands. The nearly two-kilometre stretch which connects Mahanga and Salepur is considered the lifeline of thousands of people. But till date, except for bicycles and two-wheelers, no other vehicle has moved on that road.

The locals however feel enough is enough and have decided to boycott this election if a pucca road is not made there.

“We tread through waist-deep water in the rainy season. But the MLA and Minister are beating their false trumpet by saying all the road works in our Panchayat have been completed. But that is entirely false. If the road is not made before this election, we will boycott the polls,” warned a Govindpur local Shyamasundar Behera.

Mahanga Block Assistant Engineer, Pradyot Kumar Sahu said, “There is no fund for that road. Nothing has been allocated for the road. If anything comes by, I will definitely construct the road.”

Similarly, the situation in Achyutapur panchayat under Balasore’s Khaira block has not changed. The road from Ohada to Jhatia and from Achyutapur to Gohalgadia is filled with knee-deep potholes. A little careless on this dangerous road and can quickly turn fatal for the commuters. It was promised to repair the road before the 2019 elections but MLA forgot it after winning.

Polls have come again and the politicians have returned to the village yet again asking for votes. But the thousands of people from three panchayats are still waiting for their promises to materialise.

“The MLA had promised us before the last election to sanction Rs 20 lakh for the road. He won the elections, but the road is still kuchha,” alleged a Gohalagadia local Kamini Mahala.

Achyutapur Sarpanch Ahalya Patra said, “I have never denied giving funds for the road. But out of all the money that comes to the Panchayat, a major portion is spent on drinking water and sanitation. And the remaining amount is not sufficient for road construction.”