“We are living on an island cut off from the world,” says V Gunashekaran, a resident of Meenakshipuram, a village situated near the Sirumalai range, where electricity was introduced through solar panels on Wednesday.
His words best explain the villagers’ predicament. There is no direct road to the village which comes in Madurai district, and the only available route to Madurai is through Dindigul, which is 36 kilometre away.
A seven-km-long narrow path from the village leads to Thenkurinchi, which is the last village with a road on which buses and cars can ply.
“From there, we walk up the path which is full of boulders and stones to reach our village. Only small good carriers travel on this road,” says S Valarmathi, a resident of Meenakshipuram.
In order to avoid a walk through dense forest, the villagers themselves laid the path around five years back. “It is tough for us when the path is inundated with water and gets muddy during rains. We manually clear it at regular intervals,” said K. Pandian, a farmer.
The visit of District Collector L Subramanian to inaugurate the solar power panels has kindled the villagers’ hope that their village will soon get road connectivity. “The officials and people who have visited us have seen how difficult it is to reach here and we hope something will be done soon,” says a resident.
“They need a road to be laid connecting their village to Vadipatti, which is just six km away,” said S. Alagesan, secretary, Centre for Rural and Education Development (CRED).
“This will help them take their produce in time to Parvai market in Madurai district. The produce from Sirumalai and surrounding villages already contribute to three per cent of the food items reaching Madurai markets,” he explained.
Better road will bring with it the promise of better access to healthcare for the villagers. “When I fell ill and had to be rushed to hospital, there were no vehicles available in the village and we couldn’t call an ambulance,” says D. Sundarambal, who had to undergo a throat surgery sometime back.
During emergencies, makeshift stretchers are made out of saris and bed-sheets tied to sticks and the person in need of medical help is then physically carried to Thenkurinchi. The village at present has only two four-wheelers which are used to transport chow chow, coffee and chilly produced there to the markets near Dindigul and Natham.
Mini-buses operate from Thenkurinchi to Dindigul and Madurai through roads that have been newly laid on Sirumalai.
“Since work on the roads has just been completed, government buses haven’t started plying on these routes. Only mini-buses operate thrice a day and if we miss them, we are forced to walk an additional four km to reach the nearest bus stop,” said octogenarian Ammalthaai.
“If the road from Thenkurinchi to our village is laid, we may then get direct buses to our village,” she added.