Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday gave his assent to a plan to improve infrastructure and telecommunication in Melghat to pull the tribal belt in Amravati district of Maharashtra from isolation and connect it with the mainstream of development.
The ministries of tribal welfare, finance, health, and the Department of Information and Technology have been asked to come up with a roadmap, which includes setting up of telecommunication towers in the tribal belt known for its wildlife and scenic beauty — its tiger reserve and wildlife sanctuary are noted tourist venues— and notorious for its malnutrition deaths.
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The tribal welfare department, with support from the ministry of finance, will execute the plan. Sources in the government said, “Fadnavis expressed disappointment over poor communication and infrastructure in Melghat.”
Fadnavis said, “I want a comprehensive infrastructure plan complete with communication towers, within a week.
The project will have the highest priority. It does not augur well for Maharashtra to keep one district neglected. It will have to be brought on par with other areas with whatever measures required, without unsettling its forests.” A senior tribal welfare officer said, “Over the last 20 years, the entire focus has been on tackling malnourishment. Nobody gave a thought to infrastructure.”
The kachha (mud) roads often get slushy and inaccessible in the monsoon. Telecom links have never been a priority. Melghat has 61 villages with majority tribal population (Korku tribe) but infrastructure is lacking. During the monsoons, several villages are completely cut off. Lack of communication makes it difficult for district officials to monitor development in the region.
In 2013-14, Melghat reported around 300 deaths due to malnourishment. Minister for Health and Family Welfare Deepak Sawant had announced that a senior official would be posted in the region for six months to closely monitor health parameters in the tribal belt. A senior officer in the CMO said, “Malnourishment has remained a challenge for the successive governments in Maharashtra. Improving healthcare, enhancing monitoring mechanisms and facilitating nutritious food are of the some steps initiated.”