Three water hand pumps, out of which only one is working, one defunct TV set (used only for show), three telephone connections (out of which only one is working) are all that Madizadap village in the Amravati district has.
Of the 65 families in the small village surrounded by forest on all sides, 135 km from Amravati, 57 belong to the Korku tribe and the others are Gawali (milkmen).
This village was set to be relocated a few years ago because it falls under the Melghat Tiger Reserve. An amount of Rs.10-crore was sanctioned for its relocation. Villagers were shown some of the proposed relocation sites six months ago, but they decided against shifting. “We have at least some land of our own here, the government only promised us houses. We would have shifted had they provided us a proper alternative for farming, or at least some land,” said Kende Bethekar, a Korku.
Nobody at Madizadap is employed and crop damage due to the heavy rains this year only added to the villagers’ woes.
Last year, a small bridge was built under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). The villagers received around Rs. 1,800 per family for the work. But it is not even close to the amount a family would require to sustain itself for a year, worked out on the government’s figure of Rs. 28 per day per person that it says is enough for one’s sustenance.
This year, there was no work under the MGNREGS.
Adding to its woes, Madizadap has an uninvited guest once in a week — the tiger.
“There was a time, when almost every night, a tiger would come and take away our goats, cows and other animals. Now it happens very rarely, because the Forest Department has put up some quarters near the village,” said Subelal Bethekar, a villager.
Whatever developmental work this village has witnessed has been carried out under the Eco-Development scheme of the Department’s Project Tiger. Under this scheme, eight solar street lights were installed eight days ago with every household receiving one solar plate that supports three lights.
School in shambles
The school building and the anganwadi building are in shambles. Only primary school facilities are available here. “For high school, our children have to go to the Ashramashala [tribal schools] in Zarida (25 km away),” said another villager.
This is the first year the school has got two teachers. “When I was appointed here six months ago there were only seven students. Now, the number is 22 after we made some efforts to convince villagers to send their children to school,” says D.L. Nilkhante, who teaches at the primary school. .
“I would cry initially, when I was posted here but now I have adjusted to the hard conditions here,” said Mr. Nilkhante even as he tries for a transfer. The village is like an isolated island, cut-off from the rest of the world. A big Sachin Tendulkar fan, he was saddened by the cricketer’s retirement from ODI and was even more pained because he got the news only four days later as newspapers are delivered here once a week. Its isolation is further confirmed by the fact that the sarpanch of the gram panchayat that it is under — the Khadimal Gram Panchayat which is 8 km away — visits it once every five years.
“ This time they [the panchayat] had promised that they would repair the hand pumps. We voted for them but the hand pumps were never repaired,” says one villager. The only hand pump which is working now was repaired by the forest department. Madizadap has no public health centre. The only PHC in this area is in Katkumbh, 25 km away.
“This is a big problem. Even serious patients have to walk down 10 km for medical assistance. The flying squad of the Khadimal PHC visits us once in two months,” says anganwadi sevika Jharkhande.
Fortunately, Madizadap has not witnessed any child or maternal death due malnutrition in last ten years, something Melghat is infamous for. But Mrs. Jharkhande is extremely worried about the condition of her anganwadi building.
“There are 40 children in this anganwadi and you can see its walls can collapse anytime. We were lucky that this did not happen during the rainy season. I have made repeated requests for a new building or at least for maintenance of this one, but there has been no response from the authorities,” complained Mrs. Jharkhande.
“The authorities are not responding now and if there is an accident in the Anganwadi, I will be held responsible,” she said.
She said the teachers could at least get transfers, “but we cannot. So I decided to settle down here because it is impossible to do a routine up-down to this place.”
Poornima Upadhay of the NGO Khoj Melghat, which has been working in Melghat for the past many years said , “We are seeing this village for last 15 year and haven’t seen the benefit of any government programme that can have a visible change implemented here. Not a single house that has received support under the Indira Awaas Yojana for housing ever since 60 to 70 years of development. Apart from the forest staff, not a single department comes to the village.”
“It is high time we realised that people do not need doles of loans but they need a helping hand that will support them and take their lives to sustenance and not being defaulters. Thanks to the solar lights that have now been installed from Eco Development Funds of Project Tiger that at least there is some indication that someone in government knows that this village exists,” she said.
Ramlal, a Korku tribal from the Payhir village who is an activist at Khoj Melghat said , “The road leading from the village could be easily repaired under NREGA … But who would push for this? There could be buses plying to Madizadap but where is the will to work on that. This is just a resemblance of many such smaller villages that vote in their leaders but they see them only once in 5 years or perhaps not even during elections. But the people never fail to vote. They voted 15 years back when corruption was taking roots and they continue to vote even now when everything is so entrenched. But for them and the village nothing seems to change their situation.”