Chidambaram's exhortation leaves villagers cold

“He asked us to get united and drive away the Maoists from the area. But tell me how are we going to do that? We have been living on the edge for the past one year,” – middle-aged Arati Dhar said, while talking about the interaction villagers had with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram during his visit here on Sunday.

Arati's dilapidated cottage is a stone's throw away from the Lalgarh thana and she earns Rs. 100 per week as a temporary nurse at the primary health centre.

“Living in a place where bandh is observed almost half of every month and livelihood is uncertain, fighting Maoists is the last thing on our minds,” she said.

Even as she spoke, the 24-hour-bandh called by the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee in protest against Mr. Chidambaram's visit was on.

Mithu Singh Ray, a young housewife from the same village, said that Mr. Chidambaram told them that everything would become normal in three months.

“How many more times do we have to listen to such hollow promises? For us managing two square meals a day, giving our children education and normal life is enough. We do not need lofty promises from the leaders,” Mithu said.

Asked if they had told the Home Minister about the lack of amenities in the area, she said Mr. Chidambaram observed that development was possible only if the Maoist menace was checked.

Seventeen-year-old Saraswati Ray could not appear for her higher secondary examinations this year due to the bandh called by the Maoists.

While the district administration had assured special bus services for the students, Saraswati said that none plied on the route from her home to the examination centre.