The last village point of North Bengal is situated on the Indo-Bhutan border, about 650 km from Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. The Jalakha river flowing from here defines the boundary of India and Bhutan.
India is on one side of a few feet wide river and Nepal on the other side. When we reached close to the river, a local resident jokingly shouted from behind, “Brother, do not go beyond that, the legal process to call back is very long.”
The point and surrounding villages look cut off from other cities and villages. The distance from Siliguri is just 100 kilometers, but the condition of the roads is very bad. According to the people here, roads are built, but they deteriorate as soon as the rains come.
When the BBC team stopped in a village named Jhalong, about 10 km from the point, the people there were surprised.
“Neither leaders come here, nor media”
As soon as he got off the car, one person said, “You have come from Delhi. This is the first time that the media people of Delhi have come here. First time. No one comes here, neither the media nor the leader, no one.”
Kamla Sharma of this village says, “We are very happy that you came here. For the first time.”
Kamla said that there is a lot of water in this city, located very close to the river.
He said, “Water pipes come from a distant mountain, they often go bad, so we have to go to repair. Right now the water is not coming, we will correct it by going up. It takes 4 hours to go once. is.”
When we asked Kamla if we could walk and see how far she had to go, she laughed and replied, “You have come here today, you will not be able to walk that far.”
Santosh Rai of the village cultivates cardamom and ginger. He says, “Once the ginger crop is spoiled, it cannot be cultivated again for three years, causing damage.”
According to Santosh Rai, born in the same village, nothing has changed here in the last three decades. They say, “We will give votes, but that will not change anything. The road was not there even before, it is not there now.”
As we continued from Jhalong towards the last village point, the roads became worse.
But on these roads also we saw many tourists who came to see the last village on the Indo-Bhutan border.
‘Business was run by people coming from Bhutan’
There are many food and drink shops in Bindu village. People here say that people from Bhutan used to come here to buy cheap goods, which used to run their employment.
But during the Corona epidemic, due to tightness, the movement is absolutely closed and the earning has stopped.
Shamima Khatoon, who is selling cardamom by selling a carriage in the market, says, “The Bhutan border was open, everyone used to earn money, shops used to earn Rs. 300 to 400 a day, now everything is closed.”
‘Forced to work at the daily’
Many shopkeepers are forced to work at the daily wage. Outside a house we saw many women who were doing cardamom cutting work.
He told that due to the closure of shops, he is forced to do this work. They get only 10 rupees for cutting one kg of cardamom.
Bina Khadka, showing her wound on her hand due to running scissors all day, says, “There is no employment, no work, what to do, helplessness”.
But the problems of these people do not end here. According to Bina, “There is a small hospital nearby, where a little treatment is done, but for any major disease, one has to go to Malbazar, it takes two to two and a half hours to reach there.”
Experts believe that this condition of these villages has been caused by the government’s neglect.
Dr. Govinda Chaudhary, Assistant Professor at North Bengal University, says, “The amount of money being spent in these areas is very less according to the need. Talking about the data between 2014 and 2019, almost in West Bengal. There are 41 border blocks, 14 crore rupees have been spent in every border block in 5 years, which is very less. “
However, many people said that the ration sent by the government during the lockdown continued to reach them. A person sitting at the tailor shop said, “Everything is closed, there is no money left, but the food is getting, the children are not hungry, we are happy.”
However, people like Shamima Khatoon, who settled here a few years ago and do not have ration card, did not get ration. But the people of the village helped each other a lot during this time.
Away from caste-religion politics
People of many religions and communities live together in the village, who are away from the politics of religion and caste. Shamima says, “People live here, there is a small village, there is never any discrimination with anyone.”
The involvement of the people of the village is definitely with the issue of Gorkhaland. Like other areas of Bengal, neither the BJP’s flag nor the TMC were seen in this village.
Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) Bimal and Binay faction’s one-off posters and activists are seen here. TMC has not fielded any of its candidates from here.
The GJM, which is supporting the BJP, is no longer with it and the GJM too is now divided into two pillars of Bimal Gurung and Binay Tamang.
Both the parties are fighting on the same name and similar issues and are also claiming victory. Local leaders and activists of both parties also do not deny that their party has failed to fulfill its promises. But he still hopes that he will get the support of the people.
Leela Kumar Gurung, a member of the Central Committee of the GJM (Bimal Khema), says, “Mamta Didi has promised that a permanent solution will be found this time. We had previously hoped from the Central Government that they would give the status of this separate state or one Union Territories will be created. But it did not happen. Now we expect the state government to ‘give state status’. So we are with Mamata Banerjee. “
The workers of Binay Khema also say that the BJP government did not give them anything and even Bimal Gurung could not live up to his promise.
Many believe that the BJP can benefit from the JGM splitting into two factions.
However, the people of this area have not opened their cards. He is excited about the election, many people hope that development will reach his village as well, while there are many who have become hopeless.