Attappady: With 39kg of food on his shoulder, Murukan (42), from the tribal settlement of Galasi, climbs hills, crosses streams, waterfalls and even rocky surfaces to return home after purchasing items in a ration store; which is 19 kilometers away.
Gasping Murukan, however, doesn’t stop halfway as his wife and two children wait for him at home because they are hungry. In between, he may have to stop as the leeches roll his legs to suck blood. Keeping the bag down, Murukan pulls the leeches out one by one in pain. But as this is a usual saga, Murukan takes it lightly and continues the journey.
When he gets home, his children rush over to help his father put away the items. After a few minutes his wife offers rice and tomato curry and they all eat it together.
Murukan walks nine kilometers inside the deep forest to return home carrying 30 kg of rice, 4 kg of wheat, 4 liters of kerosene and a kilogram of sugar from a ration store.
The journey will be even more difficult in case of rain as the path will become more slippery and the streams will overflow. Murukan should also be careful with wild elephants and other animals throughout the trip.
It’s not just Murukan’s story. The settlements within the forests of Silent Valley have more than a hundred families, comprising almost 500 members.
The distance between Mukali and Galasi is 19 kilometers. A road to the Anavayi tribal settlement covering 10 kilometers became a reality in 2016. But, the remaining nine kilometer stretch is still in the doldrums. For this reason, the tribes of Galasi, Melethodukki, Kezhethodukki, Kadukumanna must suffer.
Their dream road did not become a reality due to the apathy of those responsible.
âThe ration store is located in Mukali. We get jeep services from Anavayi. To reach Anavayi, we have to walk nine kilometers. We have to carry everything on our shoulders. We even transport our staff during medical emergencies. Anavayi to Keezhethodukki is 5.5 kilometers and from Keezhethodukki we have to walk 4 kilometers to reach Galasi via Melethodukki, âMurukan said.
He also said that jeep service from Anavayi to Mukkali is expensive. “To buy a free ration, we have to spend 500 rupees on jeep services.”
Usha (25), a resident of Kezhethodukki, had suffered a miscarriage. âOn June 13 of this year, I went to Kottathara hospital for a CT scan. The doctors told me that everything was fine with the baby. However, shortly after arriving home, I had a miscarriage. I had to cross rocks, streams and steep paths to get home; that could be the reason why i lost my baby, âUsha said.
No electricity in the tribal settlements
In 2017, solar units were installed in all homes in the settlements to provide electricity. However, the tribals said that was not enough to meet their electricity needs. âWe only have electricity for two or three hours a day. During the monsoon it will be even less, âsaid Sinu, a resident of Melethodukki.
Lack of proper road connectivity has been reported as the reason relevant officials are unable to electrify these settlements. There is a suitable road to Anavayi and the settlements until they have been electrified.
No mobile network
The lack of mobile networks is also a source of concern for tribals, especially students, in these settlements. âWe all have cell phones. But we cannot contact anyone through them. We have to walk several kilometers to get mobile signals, âsaid Selvan, a resident of Galasi.
Students in these neighborhoods find it difficult to use cell phones for academic purposes. Educated youth also complained that job search is very difficult due to poor network connectivity. âEducated young people here applied for various jobs through PSC and other private portals. But we are not receiving any updates because there is no network, âsaid Selvi (20), a resident of Melethodukki. Selvi is a candidate for public service. She scored over 70 percent on the Plus Two exams fighting all odds.
Authorization issued for road construction
When she contacted the Palakkad district collector Mrunmai Joshi while visiting the tribal settlements in Attappady, she said, âThe construction of the road from Anavayi to Kezhethodukki is under consideration. However, the forestry department has not yet given its consent.
On the other hand, Assistant Forestry Officer Ravikumar told Mathrubhumi.com that permission has already been issued to build the road from Anavayi to Manalumpadi. âIt’s a three kilometer stretch. Two more kilometers to go to reach Keezhethodukki. We have not received any requests for the upcoming construction, âsaid Ravikumar.
âProvide us with roads, electricity and other basic facilities. We can show our caliber. Without basic facilities, our students achieved good exam scores. If we have internet connectivity and other facilities, we will be more successful, âsaid Priya V, a resident of Thodukki. Priya obtained 851 points in the Plus Two exams.