Pradeep Pattanayak

After a long gap of 15 years, members of the Dongria Kondh community living in Chatikona village of Parasali Panchayat of Niyamgiri in Rayagada district are going to exercise their franchise on Sunday. The area falls under Kalyansinghpur Block.

The tribal community members said they had been eagerly waiting for the moment when they would ink their left index finger. The third phase of the three-tier Panchayat elections, which is all set to be held across the State on Sunday, has brought them the opportunity. 

The area was earlier rocked by Maoist activities. The Red Rebels made the innocent villagers dance to their tunes by intimidating them. The ultras would issue diktats in village meetings asking the residents to stay away from elections. With the passage of the time and the government’s constant efforts, there is no longer the fear of Ultras in the locality. 

As such, the villagers are now very happy that they are again going to participate in the election. 

“We are happy that we will vote. We will choose the best candidates so that our sufferings will end. We have been living with several problems for long. While we have been deprived of good road connectivity and clean drinking water, none of us have been provided pucca houses. We hope the days of sufferings will end soon,” said an exited young voter. 

Seconding him, another villager joined in and said they held a village meeting where they decided to elect the best candidates. 

The village head, a Dongria Kondh, is also hopeful that things would change for better. “We will vote those Samiti, Ward members and Sarpanch who will do something for us,” he said. 

In the past, the villagers had gheraoed the Block development office after they found plaques fixed on the outer walls of their houses, declaring them as beneficiaries of the Biju Pucca Ghar yojana.   

Niyamgiri area comprises 11 Wards and as many as 1,619 voters will cast vote on Sunday. 

Notably, the ongoing Panchayat election is being conducted in five phases. While two phases have already been completed, the remaining three phases will be held on February 20, 22 and 24.