Three villages minus electricity warn of poll boycott
Protests and threats to boycott elections by residents of three villages near the Bengal-Assam border for not having electricity have made the Bengal government write to Assam’s power distribution company to provide power to them for the long term.
In January this year, residents of Purba Falimari, Chhat Falimari and Chhit Bara Lalkuthi villages, under Tufanganj II block, announced they would boycott panchayat elections as they did not have electricity.
Altogether, around 10,000 people live in these villages separated by the Sankosh river from the rest of Cooch Behar.
This poll-boycott announcement made the state government and the state’s ruling party Trinamul act.
A senior official of West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) has communicated with Assam Power Development Corporation Limited (APDCL), seeking help to provide electricity to these villages.
Trinamul leaders have also started visiting villages and trying to convince residents that the state was putting its best efforts to provide them with electricity.
Last month, the chief engineer of the power trading and procurement cell of WBSEDCL sent a letter to APDCL, saying WBSEDCL wants to buy power from them to supply to these villages.
“This is because if we have to extend the power supply to them, the cost would be much higher as power cables have to be taken over the Sankosh river. The nearest distance of APDCL’s power source for these villages is between 200 metres and 500 metres. We will buy the power from them,” said a source in the state power department.
In 2017, a similar agreement to buy power was made among these two state-run companies to provide electricity to a border outpost of the BSF in the Cooch Behar district close to the Assam border.
On Monday, residents of these villages convened a public meeting and said that arrangements for solar lights were made for them, but in due course, the solar plant stopped working.
Avijit De Bhowmik, the Cooch Behar district Trinamul president, along with some party leaders, spoke with the villagers and assured them that the state was making every effort to bring electricity to the area.
“We told them about the state’s communication with Assam (on the plan to buy power). Our party will try to ensure that power reaches their areas before the panchayat elections. I have told them that they should vote not only for power but for an array of social welfare schemes introduced by chief minister Mamata Banerjee,” said Bhowmik.