Amli Pali is a cluster of single storied mud huts, dotted by triangular haystacks. Just 15 km away from a city, this village is a virtual no man's land. Accessible only by a two-feet-wide beaten path through fields, Amli Pali has been waiting for a road and for a water supply connection since 1947.
The villagers say they have voted in every election — assembly and parliamentary — since independence in the hope that things will change and that the village will be connected to the rest of the world. But more than six decades of promises later, Amli Pali's 550-odd residents have run out of patience.
“Road nahin, toh vote nahin,” shouts Lakhan, a youth who has gathered along with several locals under a tree, from where most politicians address the village during their rare visits here. The village's more than 350 voters have therefore decided to boycott the April 24 election, when rest of the Raigarh district will vote.
The lack of a road not only comes in the way of the village's economic progress, but has also resulted in social stigma. Villagers find it very difficult to find alliances for their children. “A bridegroom, who wanted to flaunt his car, had to ditch his decorated vehicle on the road and walk through fields to arrive here,” recalls Lakhan. “He was so angry that he didn't eat properly. Luckily, it did not affect the marriage.”
But the residents' health and even lives are often on the line. “We still carry our patients on a handmade cot to the nearest road or to the health centre in another village,” says Bhagwati, a senior resident of the village, who claims to have petitioned with many officials and politicians for a road. Pregnant women often rent a room in Raigarh, a month before their due date, as reaching a hospital at the end-minute can prove to be too risky. “It is economically and emotionally taxing,” says Bhagwati.
The nearest motorable road, which too is a non-macadamized one, is 4km from the village. Villagers reach this road via a two-feet high ramp meant to demarcate fields. The lanes of the village too are muddy and get inundated during the rains. The problems amplify as the village turns into an inaccessible island with water and crops surrounding it during the monsoons.
“It is high time to resist. Promises have been bombarded on us, but nothing has changed,” says 55-year-old Subhash Sao, a native farmer, who says the village looks the same as it did when he was a child. “We think boycotting the election is an apt way to nudge the authorities. Will you raise the issue in Delhi?” he asks.
Amli Pali also lacks a proper water supply connection. They depend on a common water pump in the village centre. Recently, the villagers contributed money for a bore well and laid their own network of water pipes.
“We don’t have any water tank or government supply of water here, but they (authorities) will come to collect bills soon,” fumes Bagwati, pointing to a group of women heading for a common bath at the water pump.
Villagers say their plight is always ignored since politicians don't believe they will benefit from a small voter share. The BJP's Lal Aggarwal is the local MLA while the party's Vishnudeo Sai represented the region in the 15th Lok Sabha. The party has again fielded Sai from Raigarh district; he is up against the Congress' Aarti Singh, BSP's Shankar Bhagat and the AAP's Tara Singh Rathia. None, so far, have visited Amli Pali to canvas ahead of the April 24 vote.