A large number of tribal people have threatened to boycott polls for Kandhamal Lok Sabha and Phulbani Assembly seats accusing the government of being callous in providing basic facilities such as drinking water, electricity, education and healthcare.

Around 5,000 voters, mostly tribals, of Bilabadi, Danga, Shraba, Mallickpada, Shamapaju, Birigada and five other villages have alleged that the state government is apathetic towards their problems.

The government has failed in providing facilities like proper communication, education, healthcare, drinking water, electricity and essential services, tribal leaders claimed

“We have been deliberately neglected and cheated for years. No MLA or MP has ever visited our areas. Government officials also do not visit these areas,” Pratap Mallick, a tribal leader said.

Similarly, about 6,000 voters in five tribal dominated Gram Panchayats in Balliguda Assembly constituency have also threatened to boycott the polls to express their ire against government.

Their leaders Sanatan Mallick, Bansidhara Mallick and Purander Kanhar said the decision to boycott polls had been taken due to constant neglect of the area.

“We do not have any employment to engage ourselves. We do not get work even under MGNREGS. We do not get any health, communication, education facility. As tube wells have gone defunct, so we are forced to take water from unhygienic water bodies like ponds, chuas and nullahs. We have all taken vow before our village Goddess (Grama Devati) not to cast vote for anyone,” they said.

When contacted, Kandhamal District Collector N Tirumala Nayak, who is also the Returning Officer for Kandhmal Lok Sabha Constituency, said that he was aware of the sentiments of the villagers, but the administration was in constant touch with them and told them that their grievances would be addressed.

“We hope they all will come up to exercise their franchise in due time,” he said.

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