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Maharashtra: Eight villages in Parbhani seek to become UT

Villagers say the approximately 5,500 voters of these villages executed a near-total boycott of the recent Assembly elections, but district and taluka officials remain unmoved.

Maharashtra: Eight villages in Parbhani seek to become UT Villagers say around 5,500 voters of these villages executed a near-total boycott of the recent Assembly elections. (Express Photo)

WITH a decades-long struggle for a motorable road from their villages to the Sonpeth taluka town yielding no success, residents of eight villages located along the Godavari river in Parbhani district have written to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari seeking to be declared a Union Territory.

Villagers say the approximately 5,500 voters of these villages executed a near-total boycott of the recent Assembly elections, but district and taluka officials remain unmoved. “Kindly recommend to the Centre that our villages be formed into Godakaat (Godavari’s riverbank), a new Union Territory,” says their appeal to the governor,

Anil Rode, a resident, says the villagers decided to step up their protest after years of neglect. “A previous long protest in 2000 ended in the administration making promises about a road, but no work was ever done.”

Lasina village resident Umesh Kadam, in his 20s, says about 20 youngsters in his village took a vow over the weekend that they won’t marry until the road is built. In any case, families don’t want to give their daughters in marriage to a village that has no access road, he adds. Rode has also written to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Chief Minister’s Office through the online grievance recording mechanism.

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According to villagers, the road from their homes to Sonpeth was never built, and the 15-km distance to the taluka town, where they have to go for all government-related work, banking errands, higher education, jobs and even for any major purchases, is a 90-minute ride away on a mud track that is slushy during the monsoon and a dangerous drive through the year.

As the Godavari flows on one side of these villages, this is their only route to Sonpeth. A couple of culverts go under water in the rain. During the heavy rain before Diwali this year, villagers could not attempt to make the trip to Sonpeth at all for about six days, they said.

Their appeal to the governor says their only road to join the mainstream has been in terrible condition ever since these villages became part of the Union of India in September 1948. “Due to the poor condition of this road, many ailing residents have lost their lives. Children’s higher education is stalled. People have lost employment opportunities,” it says, before adding that the local administration had been intimated of their decision to not exercise their franchise a month in advance. “Nobody from our villages voted,” says the letter.

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Sudhir Bindu, a Shetkari Sanghatana representative and activist in Sonpeth taluka, said the boycott of the election was peaceful and voluntary. “At the end of the day, the villagers held a celebration as the polling staff packed up and left. They felt the successful boycott of the election implied that some official attention would automatically come their way,” says Bindu.

Villagers say not a single senior government official ever visited or responded to their repeated requests over the years. Bindu also wrote to the election observer for Pathri Assembly constituency, saying the villagers would roll back their boycott of the election process if their complaint was taken note of.

Rode says when the election ended with no response from officials or political parties to their boycott, villagers decided they should be governed directly by the Union government. “Lasina, Thadi Ukkadgaon, Wadi Pimpalgaon, Thadi Pimpalgaon, Gangapimpri, Golegaon, Lohigram, Kharpi tanda — these villages are seeking to be Union territories, pertaining to which these villages will hold gram sabhas on November 7 and pass resolutions accordingly,” the appeal to Koshyari says, referring to their scheduled meeting as a ‘people’s Parliament’.

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Parbhani Collector P Sivasankar says many developmental activities have been undertaken in these villages, but the main road work has been held up owing to District Planning and Development Committee budget issues, but that this will be addressed soon. “We have asked the PWD to repair the road, it will be done.” The collector adds that the SDM also visited the villagers before the Assembly elections and tried to convince them to vote, but failed.

First published on: 06-11-2019 at 07:51:47 am
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