Invisible villages demand their due

CHHANDOSREE., The Sunday Telegraph

Ranchi, Dec. 14: No results found. Google Junbaiburu to get this alert, a rarity in the world’s most-frequently used search engine.

But Junbaiburu and four other villages of Noamundi block, West Singhbhum, are invisible to the Census of India, 2011 and the state of Jharkhand, not just Google, because they do not figure on the government’s revenue map.

Incredible as it may sound, this crisis of identity extends to nine villages of Latehar and Palamau districts — it is not clear where they fall — which their deputy commissioners will now have to establish.

A series of district-level workshops on Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, opened a Pandora’s Box of shockers in late November.

In the fag end of the sixth decade of Indian independence, there may be many other villages across districts of Jharkhand that suffer from similar official invisibility.

Born in India, thousands are officially rendered non-citizens as their villages — which started out as settlements of indigenous people — had never been counted on the revenue map. Successive district administrations either did not know about their existence or did not bother to include them even at the height of the separate statehood movement in Undivided Bihar, which mobilised mass support largely on the plank of tribal disenfranchisement.

As a result, generations of villagers, though born and brought up in India, are not found on any voter list.

In a domino effect of deprivation, they are out of the loop of basic government schemes and facilities — schools, health sub-centres, ration through PDS shops. BPL cards, anganvadi centres, Indira Awas Yojana homes, MGNREGS jobs, health schemes, pensions etc.

For example, the fact that West Singhbhum’s villages Junbaiburu, Kadodih, Dharnabiri, Chernalor and Chingrilore were officially non-existent came to light at the workshop hosted by the state welfare department in Chaibasa (West Singhbhum) on the forest rights act.

Chaired by tribal welfare commissioner Rajesh Kumar Sharma, the workshop to publicise the act, asked rural participants about problems they faced in obtaining pattaof their own piece of land within a forestland.

It was then that Noamundi panchayat samiti pramukh (head) Jiren Sinku told Sharma and other officials that people of the five villages couldn’t claim rights as they officially did not exist.

When The Telegraph spoke to Noamundi BDO Ajay Tirkey over phone, he said: “The five villages are there for years but have never figured in the Census or any government document. I visited the villages and got an informal head count done. The cumulative population is 757.”

He agreed these settlements on Kiriburu-Meghatuburu areas don’t get government facilities. “We will resolve this problem at the earliest by initiating an official process to convert these places into recognised revenue villages. We have identified some 25 villages so far that are non-existent on government records,” Sharma said.

Latehar deputy commissioner Aradhana Patnaik said she had visited some of the “invisible” villages such as Latum and Kujum. “I facilitated Indira Awas Yojana facilities there,” she said. “For my own part, I am trying to identify the geographical location of similar villages and slot them as part of districts,” she said.

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