In many Tripura villages, lack of employment has compelled people to lead a difficult life.
In the small tribal village of Karja Kumar Roaja Para – 150 km away from Tripura’s capital Agartala – 44-year-old Ponthijoy Tripura, the vice-chairman of the village council, is worried that the last stock of rice at his home may soon finish.
Over the years, MNREGA wages had become the main source of earnings for the tribals in this village. However, for the last six months, tribals say they can’t rely on them.
“We are not getting enough cash in hand so how can we buy grains. The government might give us free ration but that is not all. What about drinking water, electricity and other facilities that we require?” says Ponthijoy Tripura.
For seven consecutive years till 2015, Tripura had been the best performing state in country in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), a central scheme that guarantees “right to work”.
In Tripura, the scheme meant more man days for tribals. But that was not enough for the Left to win this year’s assembly polls. Eighteen of the 20 tribal reserved seats went to the BJP-IPFT alliance. Their promise of speedy facelift of tribal areas probably convinced the voters in these constituencies.
While the power shifted from Left to right following a historic mandate three months back, life has not changed much for the tribals in the remote areas. The tall claims of the central government on rural electrification also fall flat here, the villagers say.
The roads are in a poor condition and for water, the villagers say, they still depend on the dirty rivulets.
“Lack of employment has been causing acute shortage of resources for the people. I am told some people have migrated to Bangladesh due to unemployment,” says Jitendra Chaudhury, Member of Parliament from the Tripura East constituency. The new government says it plans to do a lot more.
However, Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Devvarma, says, “As far as MNREGA is concerned, we have created 22 lakh man days. In the corresponding period last year, the figure was at 8-9 lakh. It started late this time because last year, funds had to be curtailed by centre because of the discrepancies by the previous left government. They geo-tagged a lot of areas where work was not at all done.”
While the blame game continues between the leaders of Biplab Deb government and the Left on MNREGA work allocation, poor tribals continue to suffer.