Merakani Village Gets Government Support!

I first visited Merakani in Tentulikhunti Block of Nabrangpur District, in the early 1980s. Located close to the Block Headquarters of Tentulikhunti, the entire village made a living from bamboo weaving. Every week, the men went to the Kalahandi side of the forest, walking 6-7 hours, carrying their food packs, and in terror of forest officials. It took them 4 to 5 days to cut the bamboo and bring it back to their village. With this bamboo, women and men wove baskets of various sizes and shapes, drying trays for grain and mats to sell in the weekly market. The income of a family from this averages about Rs.500 a week!

The main demand of the village then was Water and Education. We had constructed a pisciculture tank, which is still in a perfectly functional condition, a check-dam, and a community centre, where we supported a youth for a night school. All of this was done with meagre resources.

Going back after more than 25 years, was heartwarming, as several old men and women recognised and welcomed me with smiles and cheers. The entire village gathered for a meeting, everybody wanted to speak at the same time to share and know why I hadn’t come all these years.

The village had been cut off for much of the year due to a large erratic stream, now, they had a road, and also electricity. A solar pump had been fitted for drinking water. All Mobile Networks ( BSNL, JIO, AIRTEL) are active in the village due to its proximity to Tentulikhunti. One youth Jagabandhu Jani has passed 10th, and is the sole matriculate in the community. The Pisciculture Tank provides water for domestic use as well as fish.

but all is not rosy and pink. There is a growing shortage of bamboo, asnd climate change and deforestation affect even the meagre livelihood from bamboo craft; neither the agricultural land, nor the homestead land has been settled, and the local revenue officials impose heavy fines on the community, striking where they are the weakest, the Forest Rights Act has not been brought into force here, nor in the neighbouring villages of Merakani. And worst of all the village Government Primary School has been listed for closure………..

But that was in the beginning of February, whence the first post on Merakani Villaget appeared on my Facebook page. Since then, the Government has taken note of this village, and things have begun to change.

The District Collector, Nabarangpur, Dr. Ajit K. Mishra, visited the village and laid the foundations for long term development which included renovation of an old and damaged check dam (constructed by Agragamee 30 years back) and convert it to a large Farm Pond with inlet and outlet structures. The BDO of Tentulikhunti Block Mr. Padmanabh Tripathy has swung into action. The Farm Pond under MGNREGS work was given top priority. The Estimate is Rs.10 lakhs. The objectives of the Farm Pond are as follows:
• To store perennial stream water in a big farm pond cum water harvesting structure for irrigation and multi community use.
• To assure irrigation facility in Merakani village so that 16 farmers will take 2-3 crops in 24 acres throughout the year.
• To improve use of land for 100% with alternative traditional crops by the farmers of Merakani village.
• It will enhance land productivity for better agricultural production to ensure food and nutritional securities of the community.
• Reduction of deforestation and soil erosion will be achieved through orchard development and inter-cropping by assured irrigation.
• 60% of waste land will convert into cultivable land and crop yields have improved by 40%.
• Fisheries will be taken up as income generation program by the progressive farmers to ensure economic sustainability.

I am so impressed and excited as the MGNREGS Work has started in the village in record time as presented graphically in the photographs below. I am sure The State Government and Central Government Authorities will appreciate how a team work along with GO-NGO Collaboration can work dramatic changes in a sleepy hinterland.

And yet, I ask myself why can’t such collaborative efforts be replicated, and become the norm? This is not certainly Rocket Science! The Time Line given below is indicative of the resolve of the Collector and the BDO to develop an underdeveloped village in the right direction.
7.02.21: Visit of BDO for village survey and preplanning for development works.
8.02.21: Submission of application by the villagers for all-round development works in the village.
9.02.21: Visit of District Collector to Merakani Village. Site visit of water harvesting structure. Announcements of different development works in the meeting. Distribution of Job Card, Ration Card, Old age Pension and FRA patta.
10.02.21: Submission of development action plan of Merakani Village by the BDO to the PD-DRDA.
15.02.21: Site inspection by the GRS, JE and the staff of Agragamee for renovation work of Big Community Farm Pond cum Water Have Structure.
18.02.21: Green signal from the District Collector to initiate the excavation work of the Water Harvesting Structure worth Rs. 10 lakhs under MGNREGS.
18.02.21: Inauguration of excavation work of the big community farm pond cum Water Harvesting Structure by the BDO, Sarapanch and the staff of Agragamee. Total 47 persons were engaged in the excavation work.
I am sure there is no looking back regarding the development of Merakani village. The Collector and the BDO are setting an excellent example, and a remarkable beginning has been made. I do hope, they will also help reverse the decision for closure of the village school, and spread this effort to other villages.

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