Thengumarahada, Nilgiris, Nov 9: Though gifted with natural resources, including an abundant river water source, the 2000 odd people living in Thengumarahada Panchayat consisting five hamlets are facing difficulties, including threat to life due to non-availability of an approach road to a distance of 30 km to neighbouring Erode district.
Surrounded by Western Ghats and with availability of water round the year from Mayar river, the immediate need of the villages in this Panchayat is relaying of a dilapitated metal road from Bhavani Sagar to Thengumarahada in the forest area either by district administration to gain access to Erode district.
The villagers as well as Panchayat officials have to cross the Mayar river in boat from Thengumarahada to Bhavani Sagar in Erode District or travel by bus for three hours if they need to approach the District Administration. If they are to reach Udhagamandalam, they would have to travel to Mettupalayam or Coonoor by bus in the Ghats section. Thus they have to travel for a minimum of the eight hours, if they are to seek a solution to their problems from the District Administration.
Talking to this reporter 35-year-old Murugan simply wondered when he would be able to get his son married as no parent was willing to give his daughter to any prospective bridegroom as they think that the girl may suffer during the delivery or any major illness due to non-availability of motorable road.
He said there are so many like me in this village who expect the state government to come to their rescue. Many vexed families have been leaving this area as there is no high school facility or employment opportunities except agriculture, for their wards.
Panchayat President B Irudhayaraj told UNI that the present population of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Irulas) in the Panchayat was about 753. There are another 1090 people under Kurumbas, Vettuva and Goundar communities. After the Independence the state government had allocated three acres of land for cultivation to each family. A society was also formed with over 100 members to air grievances.
Mr Irudhayaraj said a resolution was passed in the Panchayat that if the state government does not get the road relayed before January next, the local administration will resign enmass to express protest. ''It is only an ego clash between two district administrations. Erode district officials, who should get the road relaid say that they have no benefit if they do so as the people who enjoy it will be the people of Nilgiris district.
The administration of the Nilgiris district contends that they cannot construct the road as the land belongs to Erode district.
Officials of both districts have kept the file pending saying that the road in question belongs to the forest area, he said.
Mr Irudhayaraj said the Panchayat has also submitted another plan to reduce the cost for the government to relay the road.
A simple solution would be to relay the existing road from Bhavani Sagar to Kallampalayam Cross (nine kms), laying of a new road between Kallampalayam to Mayar River (three Kms) and construction of a bridge at Mayar river. The Panchayat has already laid a tar road from Kallampalayam to Thengumarahada via Halli Mayar (10 kms). If this is implemented, it will benefit the people of the Panchayat and the cost of the project will also be less, he said.
Asked why the Panchayat could not be put under Erode district for administrative purposes, he said the people of the village did not want this as they would be deprived of the benefits under Hill Area Development Project (HADP), from the Centre. Some of the local villagers were also opposed to this.
Sympathising with the plight of the people of the Panchayat, Thengumarahada Primary Health Center(PHC) Medical Officer Dr Natarajan said most of the people living in the area were anaemic.
They have to be treated periodically. He could only provide first aid whenever they were attacked by wild animals. They are forced either go to Sathyamangalam or Bhavani Sagar for further diagnosis and treatment.
''Only luck can save a pregnant woman in case of a complicated delivery. She has to travel 30 or more kms on the dilapitated road and during rainy season, a boat cannot be operated in the river as it would be in spate'', he pointed out.
He said if the government provides more infrastructural benefits, including an operation theatre with equipment, it would be of great help to the people of this Panchayat.