Development plans are supposed to be formulated before the start of a new fiscal year, but even more than a month into the new fiscal year the districts don't have any. A few village councils met before the new fiscal year but even the plans they had approved haven't been implemented. The chairman of Sitapur VDC, Mahesh Chaudhary, had come to the district capital to collect his budget, but says it's too dangerous to go back.
"These groups demand donations and threaten us. We can't even transfer the money budgeted to us for development. They threaten to kill us if we don't give them donations. We can't risk our lives, can we?" Chaudhary asks.
Jagdar Thakur, chairman of Kamalpur VDC, says: "The same group repeatedly demands donations from us. We live in fear every day." VDC chairmen say the Jwala Singh, Goit and Rajan groups demand hefty donations by phone or by mail.
The chairman of Sakarpura VDC, Rajkumar Jha, was reluctant to call a meeting of the village council, but the meeting was conducted on the initiative of the villagers. But now he is not in a position to return to the village to implement the proposals passed at the meeting. Jha, who has been living in Rajbiraj for seven months, says the meeting had no meaning.
A majority of secretaries in the 116 VDCs in Saptari live in Rajbiraj, and this is true in nearly 900 VDCs across the eastern Tarai. Even the adjoining hill districts are affected. During the Maoist insurgency, the VDC offices stayed empty because of Maoist threats, now because of threats from Tarai militants.