BHAWANIPATNA: A YEAR back when Dana Majhi walked 10 km with his dead wife on his shoulders, the world sat up and took notice of not just the poor tribal who could not afford a hearse but also his village, Melghara. The incident changed his life for good. Dana received funds to the tune of lakhs from various quarters and housing assistance under Indira Awas Yojana, his three daughters were enrolled in a school and earlier this year, he married for the third time. However, development is still miles away from the small tribal village of Melghara under Nakrundi gram panchayat of Thuamul Rampur block of Kalahandi. River Nagavalli crisscrosses through the village that is tucked into hills and is surrounded by forests on all the three sides. The district headquarters town of Bhawanipatna is 60 km away from Melghara.
From Bhawanipatna town, one can travel on an all-weather road for 43 km up to Saisurni village and from here, Melghara is 17 km away. Even as there is a pucca road between Saisurni and Melghara, it was severely damaged in the July 15 flash flood which also washed away culverts over Amjhola, Panjidar and Kargul nullahs that surround the village. No four-wheeler can now reach Melghara. Like the roads, houses of Dana and other villagers were also damaged in the floods.
The village is home to 55 tribal families with a population of 204 people, who mostly depend on shift cultivation and minor forest produce to eke out living. Dana owns one acre of land and has a job card for MGNREGS work. The employment guarantee scheme has not provided them jobs so far and job cards are mostly empty, villagers alleged. They do not have individual or community rights over the forest under the Forest Rights Act.
The village has an anganwadi centre and a primary school. Melghara primary school has an enrolment of 65 students who are taught by two teachers. There are two rooms in the school but one has been damaged. The School and Mass Education department, however, has taken no steps to repair the room. Along with Dana’s daughters, other children of the village have been enrolled in Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) in Bhubaneswar for school education. During health emergencies, people of Melghara depend on primary health centre (PHC) at Nakrundi, community health centre (CHC) at Thuamul Rampur and District Headquarters Hospital at Bhawanipatna.