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Panchayat funds defrauded: Roads without potholes a fundamental right but not here

Kirity Roy, Secretary Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and National Convenor (PACTI) Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, writes to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission:

Through this complaint, I want to draw your attention to the plight of the villagers of Nawdapara in the District of North 24 Parganas. The village is situated under the Bagdah Police Station, Bagdah Block and Mama Bhagina Post Office respectively.
Nawdapara is a Muslim minority populated village. Indo Bangladesh Border Road (IBBR) passes through the middle of the village. There is a naka checking post of the BSF inside the village and BSF associated with Mama Bhagina Border Out Post, 68 Battalion, ‘B’ Company guard 24 hours in that check post. People have lived in this village since the independence of India. The market is about three to four kilometres away from Nawdapara village. One primary school is situated within the village but the high school is about five to six kilometres away and college is about 25 kilometres away. There is no health care facility in this village, even one primary health centre is about eight to nine kilometres away from this village.
After 75 years of independence of India, there is no concrete road in the village of Nawdapara. As a consequence, the village roads from Nawdapara Idgah Maidan to Mama Bhagina Kathaltala total 3 kilometres roads are in terrible condition, there are large ditches in the middle of the road which make transport and communication impossible. The road is extremely prone to accidents and even traveling on foot is hazardous to life. The village roads f beyond this stretch of 3 kilometres are functional but that gives little respite to the villagers because they cannot reach their houses without traveling through the dilapidated road in their village. The local panchayat has taken no initiative to address the problem.
Connectivity through roads is the primary focus of any developmental work but during monsoon this village road of Nawdapara becomes muddy and even cycle cannot go in this road. Therefore this village area is detached from the rest of the world and looks like an island due to not commutable muddy roads. Life and livelihood options became unattainable due to hindrances in normal movement. Students cannot go to their school by crossing the dilapidated road condition. For pregnant ladies and any patients, it is a very risky environment if they want to go to the Hospital.
Section 19(2) (d) of the West Bengal Panchayat Act, 1973 provides that the duties of gram panchayat is to maintain, repair, construct and protect public streets in the village. The main objective of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) is to meet the special developmental needs of the people living in the remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border. The implementation of BADP is on a participatory and decentralized basis through the Panchayati Raj institutions but in this area the Border Area Development Programme is not properly conducted as the village road has not been repaired till date.
An elderly villager who did not wish to be named, informed us that the children in this village after passing their fourth standard drop out from the school because of crossing five to six kilometres distance of the high school. Therefore, they get involved in smuggling at a young age. Poor children are actively involved in smuggling activities for wages Rs. 300 to 500. As a result of this, there are occasional conflicts between BSF and villagers in this area. Many have died and been injured in this area during smuggling activities.
The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right. But why in this place of India does the Constitutional mandate not work? Why did the concerned district administration and education department not take any positive steps to prevent school drop out after fourth standard in the village of Nawdapara?
Justice Bhagwati once said, “It is the fundamental right of everyone in this country… to live with human dignity free from exploitation. This right to live with human dignity enshrined in Article 21 derives its life breath from the Directive Principles of State Policy and particularly clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 and Articles 41 and 42 and at the least, therefore, it must include protection of the health and strength of workers, men and women, and of the tender age of children against abuse, opportunities and facilities for children to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity, educational facilities, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.” These are the minimum requirements which must exist in order to enable a person to live with human dignity and no State neither the Central Government nor any State Government-has the right to take any action which will deprive a person of the enjoyment of these basic essentials.
On 24.01.2023 Amra Simantabasi, Nawdapara Gram Committee (a conglomeration of the bordering populace) submitted written applications to the District Magistrate, North 24 Parganas; Sub Divisional Officer, Bangaon and Block Development Officer, Bagdah. Total 282 villagers signed on that written application even local panchayat member Ms. Maseda Dafadar and Mr. Binod Kumar Dube, Assistant Commandant, 68 Battalion, ‘B’ Company acknowledged the issue and put their signature on the written applications submitted before the Block Revenue Office, Sub Division Office and district administration. But till date no action has been taken by the concerned administrative departments.
This situation is practically in violation of right to life, equality and equal opportunity as enshrined in Article 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and Articles 11 and 12 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The Sustainable Development Goals is an initiative of the United Nations to gain a more sustainable and better future for all human beings by addressing challenges like poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice. The road condition of Nawdapara village violates the set Goal number 8 and 16 of Sustainable Development Goal.
Therefore, I request your urgent intervention in fulfilling the following demands:
· Proper corrective measures must be taken to the mass petition submitted by the villagers of Nawdapara to the District Magistrate, North 24 Parganas; Sub Divisional Officer, Bangaon and Block Development Officer, Bagdah.
· The concerned authorities should be directed to immediately initiate the work to build a concrete and functional village road for the villagers of Nawdapara.
· BADP funds should be allotted in border development only.
· The BSF should be directed to be stationed at the zero point of the border and not at the IBBR Road.
· Free, compulsory and equitable education for all children from the village of Nawdapara must be guaranteed.
· The errant officials responsible for underdevelopment of the said area must be punished in accordance with law.



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