Odisha villagers sacrifice land for community road

‘Instead of confrontational approach, villagers were constantly persuaded to move back’

At a time when land acquisition emerges as the biggest stumbling block in undertaking any developmental project, the inhabitants of a small panchayat in Odisha’s Keonjhar district surrendered their generational claim on land for widening of village road.

Not long ago, the roads passing through Boncho panchayat in Hatadihi block were as narrow as 8-10 ft. it It was difficult to drive a four-wheeler through the panchayat with 5,000-srong population.

Moreover, people used to discharge waste water into the village street.

“It was not easy to convince people to give up claim on land they had been enjoying for decades. Though a few stretches was government land, it was difficult to evict them,” said Sushant Kumar Biswal, a resident of Boncho.

“It did not happen over one meeting. Instead of confrontational approach, villagers were constantly persuaded to move back. It worked,” said Mir Biswal.

Sasank Puhan, who took the lead in convincing villagers, said, “It is a rare sight in village in a remote part of the State to have road with 18-20 feet width. As people sacrificed their ego and land, the widening has become possible. Over the past two years, we successfully influenced another group of villagers to take the drain on their side.” Around 50 villagers gave up their land.

Most villagers said they were happy to help build the community road.

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