“A cold shudder always came across while crossing the road. It was practically impossible to recognise the roads, amidst the over flooded Bagui”, speaks a petrified hawker from Boincha mouza looking towards the lush green tracts of agricultural land. That land was earlier inundated with water especially during the monsoon season due to the overflowing Bagui canal. The Bagui canal flows through Dantan-I, Dantan-II, and Narayangarh blocks in Paschim Medinipur and Patashpur block in Purba Medinipur. Since the canal is linked with the Subarnarekha River, the canal used to overflow with the rise in water levels in the river, especially during the monsoons every year.
It was a similar situation in Boincha mouza in number 3 sansad under Talda Gram Panchayat at Dantan-II Block where Bagui canal meets river Kheleghai. This area was similarly affected and devastated during the monsoons due to the rise in water levels of Subarnarekha. A settlement comprising of 40 Scheduled Tribe and 12 Scheduled Caste families is situated south of the Boincha mouza. As the Bagui canal runs through the middle of the village it hindered communication, economy and livelihood of the people, especially during the monsoon. Hence the villagers were forced to take alternative routes to the market for business, incurring more losses due to increased transportation cost. It was especially difficult for the children to reach the school. The children had to take a detour through Kakrajit which was an additional distance of 10-11 Kms. This led to a decrease in the number of children attending school and 21 children’s attendance was severely affected.
Daily life and economic activities were also hampered. It was very troublesome for the sick to reach Nandkuria health sub-centre and Dantan-I Block health centre. There was a decrease in the attendance of 10-12% of students in the college situated at Dantan-I. The community used to face problems in reaching the court, market place and registry office. Moreover as this mouza is bordering Dantan- I Panchayat Samiti, hence dwellers of Dantan-I also had to face the same inconveniences. The alternate route was through Monoharpur which was an additional journey of 16-17 kms.
The main festival of these two areas is the Raas Yatra. This annual festival at Kakrajit mouza at Dantan-I Panchayat Samiti is a grand affair and attracts devotees from all surrounding regions. Due to the canal, the devotees had to take a detour of additional 20 Kms through Kazipara area to reach the festival venue.
Although Gram Panchayat had planned for solutions, financial support was the major barrier. During 2011-12, the canal was temporarily renovated which failed to resolve the difficulties faced by the communities. During 2012-13, the Institutional Strengthening of Gram Panchayats Project (ISGPP) provided the breakthrough with a financial support of Rs.9,50,000.00 (Rupees Nine lakhs fifty thousand only) along with technical expertise for construction of a bridge over the canal with embankment. Along with the ISGPP grant, Rs.1,30,000.00 (Rupees One lakh thirty thousand only) from State Finance Commission grant and Rs.80,000.00 (Rupees Eighty thousand only) from Gram Panchayats own source revenue was sourced for the project.
‘Vivekananda Setu’ as it was named, has so long proved to be decisive and pivotal infrastructure for the villagers. It has been planned to be compatible with the environmental and social standpoints and its construction and existence has no harmful and hazardous impact on the natural environment and ecological system of the neighbourhood. This bridge has eased communication woes and children now attend school regularly and it has become very convenient for the menfolk to reach the markets on time to sell their produce.
Through additional effort of Gram Panchayat and the villagers the embankments have been fortified which has enabled faring on adjoining 500 acres of land, thrice a year. This has ensured economic upliftment and safety for the localities, thereby assuring a happy habitat for all. Transportation has become hassle-free. People are now reaching homes earlier than before. Earlier, the villagers had to spend extra on transportation due to additional distance covered. This money is now being saved and is being spent on food items thereby contributing to slightly improved health for children. The time saved due to this canal is spent at home thereby ensuring better attention to children and harmonious family and social life.
During the construction of the canal, many local people got employment and this bridge has eased communication. Moreover, by utilizing its own source revenue, the GP has demonstrated that the fund it generates can be used for purposes which benefit the local population. The distance to Nandakuria health sub-centre has been reduced by 7-8 Kms and villagers are easily able to reach there. Children are now able to attend school regularly, even during the monsoon season and also able to play in the adjoining fields. The trip to the annual Raas Yatra has become more convenient for devotees leading to a big congregation which directly improves the livelihood of the people of the area.
Such initiatives at the local level of governance through people participation can lead to overall improvement in the lives of the people and bring real change at the grass root level.