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Sharmili Mallick

At a time when the bugle of panchayat elections has been blown in Odisha, the villagers of Bijipur under Sana Adhanga gram panchayat in Garadpur block of Kendrapara district have threatened to boycott the rural polls protesting the closure of the village school.

As per reports, the primary school at Bijipur village was closed two years ago under the merger policy of the State Government and merged with the school at nearby Sana Adhanga village.

Protesting the move of the State Government, the villagers have pledged to boycott the three-tier panchayat polls beginning February 16.

Though we have been making the demand for the reopening of the village school for a long time, it fell on deaf ears. Hence, staying away from the polling booth and election fray was the only option for us to make ourselves heard, said the residents of Bijipur village.

A villager of Bijipur said, “The village school was closed under the merger policy due to which our children are at home for the last two years. They are deprived of their right to education. Though the villagers apprised their problem to the BDO, BEO, Sub-Collector and recently submitted a grievance in the office of Chief the Minister, no steps have been taken to reopen the school.”

“As per the merger policy, the school should be situated within 1 kilometre but the Sana Adhanga school is more than 1.5 kilometres from the village. The village school had 37 enrolled students. Despite that, it was closed by the administration,” alleged another villager.

“The village school has been shut and now our children are forced to travel around kilometres to reach the school in the nearby village. Therefore, we have decided to peacefully boycott the elections as a mark of protest,” said another villager.

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