Myanmar refugees seek Orissa Govt.'s attention at their neglect

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Nayagarh (Orissa) Feb 10 (ANI): Families of the people of Indian origin, evicted from Myanmar and presently living in rehabilitation camps in Orissa's Nayagarh district, want Orissa Government to have a look at their plight and help them lead a better life.

Families here say that almost all of them are still languishing to get the basic amenities, which were promised to them by the government over 45 years ago.

Around 100 families from Burma crossed the border in 1965 and sought refuge at the tiny village of Darpa Narayanpur in Nayagarh District.

However, the successive State governments had assured that these refugees would be given five acres of land and 12000 rupees to settle themselves in the new place.

The authorities failed to provide them the promised piece of land and other resources until a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in 1998 came forth to help them.

It was then that with the help of this NGO, the Burmese refugees filed s case under the public interest litigation (PIL) in the state high court.

The High Court then ordered the government to provide 50 units of land to these refugees, which they are yet to receive although not at commercial rates.

"The government had promised us 5 acres of land and 12000 rupees to set up our abodes. But when we came here, they gave us 5000 rupees instead of the promised 12000. We were trying to manage with the 5000 rupees which was given to us through a society. But the society later became bankrupt. We had no other source. Our parents died due to poverty," lamented Paduan Daguri, a refugee.

From then on, most of the displaced families, residing at the make-shift resettlement colonies of Orissa, are a disappointed lot.

These refugees are living below poverty line (BPL) and even after 45 years, these families are struggling to survive, living in utmost awful conditions amid poverty, illiteracy and under development.

"The government does not listen to us despite our repeated appeals. Recently we appealed to the district authorities of Nayagarh. But they do not pay attention to our plight. Instead of giving the land to us as per the court's directives, what they gave us was very less," said Gurei, a Burmese refugee.

It was not just the economic problems that they had to deal with but also the societal acceptance that made their survival even tougher.

The villagers treated them like untouchables and even barred them from using common community resources and places.

Some refugees were forced to leave the district and went over to other states to earn a decent livelihood.

A majority of these families are surviving with the heads of the families, working as porters, rickshaw pullers and labourers.

Reportedly, a good number among them were forced to work as bonded labourers.

The refugees, who stayed back in the Darpa Narayanpur village, are solely dependent on forest produce for their living, selling products made from Sal leaves such as leaf plates for dining and bowls known as Patals and Donnas respectively.

Thus over the past three decades, only 20 families of the original refugees from Burma are left in the village.

Meanwhile, the concerned authorities in the state government including the minister feign ignorance about the plight of the persons displaced from Burma.

"I can't say anything. I will have to look up the case. If at all any news of the refugees will come to me from somebody or some local MLA will come and tells me, then only I will take up the matter. I will ask the Collector to inquire about it," said Suryanarayan Patra, Revenue and Disaster Minister, Orissa.

These refugees from Myanmar are currently getting financial support from 'Adhikar Micro-finance', a non-governmental organisation based at Bhubaneswar. By Sarada Lahangir (ANI)

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