12:00 AM, December 28, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:10 AM, December 28, 2018

From campaign trail: LALMONIRHAT

The broken promises

Voters in char areas of Lalmonirhat seem to have lost hope as several promises regarding the area's development had been announced in previous elections over the decades but nothing was done in reality.

Every day as the sun sets, majority of the 105 chars drown in darkness as only 50 percent of the households have solar panels that keep electricity flowing for a maximum of six hours a day.   

Different governments came to power since independence but the fate of char dwellers remained unchanged, said locals.

“When election comes, agents of political parties and MPs come with a list of promises and seek votes but all of it vanishes as soon as the results are out,” said 100-year-old Afsar Ali, a resident of Falimari char in Lalmonirhat sadar.

“The candidates send their men to seek votes. They do not even come themselves.”

The chars are home to 67,500 people of whom 48,000 are entitled to vote in the December 30 polls. There are 27 government-run primary schools in the chars where about 15 percent of the population is educated.

Jatiya Party Co-chairman GM Quader is contesting from the Awami League-led 14-party grand alliance against Lalmonirhat BNP President Asadul Habib Dulu in Lalmonirhat-3 constituency.

The posters of the two contenders were visible in Falimari and Nagartari chars (both under Lalmonirhat-3 constituency) on Wednesday.

However, not many seemed to be bothered with the upcoming polls. A group of men sitting at a tea stall in Falmari were seen talking about anything but the 11th parliamentary polls knocking at the door. 

Among them, Achhir Uddin, 58, a resident of Nagartari char in Dharala river, said they did not have anything to do with politics as they had to think about their survival first.

Char dwellers earn their living mainly through fishing and banana farming. Every year during the months of July, August and September, they become penniless as their belongings go under an overflowing river.

Asked about education and electrical connections, Hashi Akhter, 35, became angry and asked this correspondent to talk to the local MP.

“Before the 2014 elections, the MP's supporters promised us electricity and dyke in the river but nothing has been done till date,” she said, adding, “When the area is flooded, the ministers come on boats, distribute some dry food and go back.”

Mintu Bepari, who was standing near Hashi, noted that there was hardly any medical facility available in the chars. “We have to go to Lalmonirhat sadar, which is 10 kilometres away, to get treatment,” said the 25-year-old.

He further said the only union health complex, located some four kilometres away from his char, remained without doctors most of the time.

There is no connecting road between the mainland and the chars. One has to cross the river by a boat and then walk at least two kilometres to get a transport to reach the district, according to the char dwellers.

Sheuli Akhter, a student of class V at Smriti Ray Crystal Primary School in Falimari, stressed the need of a high school.

On this, GM Quader said if elected, he would place a dyke first to ease the difficulties of char people. “We will arrange medical facilities and set up educational institutes there,” he further said.

Asked why people in the chars were forgotten after elections, the Jatiya Party leader, with a smile on his face, said he and his men had been in touch with the char people. They took updates of their condition whenever possible.

Similar accounts came from Jatiya Oikyafront candidate Asadul Habib Dulu. He claimed that he had maintained a good relation with the char people.

However, the char people felt differently.

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