In this day and age, villagers of Podugampatti are still waiting for the first bus to enter their hamlet. The irony is the existence of a good road laid 15 years back to connect the village to the Madurai-Natham highway. With a population of about 400 people, Podugampatti in Parali Pudur panchayat is 28 km away from Periyar bus stand and lies at the tip of Dindigul district.
But Madurai matters the most for them because of the proximity and big-city facilities.
C. Sivakumar, working as an electrician at nearby ethnic resort ‘Kadambavanam,’ says, “Rarely do we go to 50-km away Dindigul since the 70-odd students either go to Madurai for college studies or Chathirapatti and Kanjarampettai on the way.”
Besides, about 50 people go every day to Madurai to sell farm produce or for work. Many of them return home in pitch darkness amid fear of snakes and Indian gaurs.
There is a government primary school in the village, presently with two teachers and 40 students. To go to Madurai or elsewhere they ought to walk 2 km to the main road and since there is no bus stop at the intersection they walk another one km to Vemparali.
Since the village lies on a foothill, the walk becomes all the more tiresome because of the steep gradient.
But the uphill climb has not deterred these Dalits from pursuing higher education.
In every one of the 90 families, at least one person is a literate.
The studies of the present crop of college students range from hotel management and pharmacy to the customary B.A., B.Com.
Paradoxically, but for a CRPF man and a veterinary hospital employee, others do not have a good job or income. As the village is surrounded by mango orchards, they get seasonal jobs.
A. Jeyabalan, a B.Com. student, says nearby Parali Pudur and Thethampatti get all facilities because villagers there wield muscle power and have right connections at the right places.
Podhumponnu Vellaichamy of the village says, “The nearest primary health centre is at Vathipatti, which is six km away. For serious cases, we go to Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai.
In some cases, even as we move women in labour pain to hospitals deliveries take place uphill before we reach Natham highway.”
Some of the children born that way have been christened ‘Kuttu,’ the name of a habitation uphill with 20 houses, which lies on the way.
Parthiban, a student, says buses on main road come jam-packed during peak hours.
A. Ganesan, who runs a welding shop at Parali, says their village with so many literates deserves a library. They have given innumerable petitions to the authorities, right from former Transport Minister R. Viswanathan of Natham for bus service, but to no avail.
These poor and educated people will be happy if they get one or two city bus services in the mornings and evenings from Periyar bus stand, at a time when even 38 km away Natham has got such a facility now.