A bridge, drinking water and title deeds are basic demands

Eight years after the police-Maoists encounter, the cup of woes of the residents of Devarabalu village, in the Left extremism-affected Hallihole Gram Panchayat, still overflows.

This village is about 77km from Udupi at the foothills of the Western Ghats. There is a good road of 68 km from Udupi to Hallihole. From Hallihole, there is a tar road for about six km, but the remaining three km winding journey, to the place where the encounter took place, is tough both on the vehicle and those travelling in it.

The sleepy hamlet, coming under the Byndoor Assembly Constituency, hit the headlines, when the Anti-Naxalite Force (ANF) shot down two suspected Maoists here on June 23, 2005. A group of suspected Maoists gunned down a landlord at the nearby Yedageri village, about 2 km from Devarabalu, also coming under Hallihole Gram Panchayat, on December 7, 2008.

A minor bridge, a three-km-long tar road, drinking water, provision of irrigation pump-sets and title deeds are the major demands of the people living in this village surrounded by dense forest. There are 22 houses in this hamlet, of which 17 belong to either Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes. Almost all of them are small farmers. The people here feel that politicians have only been paying lip sympathy to their demands.

Surendra Naik, in front of whose house the encounter took place in June 2005, grows cashew, areca, coconuts and plantains on five acres of land. He said that a 3-km tar road along with a small bridge connecting Kottinahadi with Devarabalu was urgently required as it would provide connectivity to 22 houses. The people suffered a lot during monsoon due to the lack of a bridge.

Persons from 18 houses walked to the nearby Chakra River to fetch drinking water, while the remaining four collected water from the streams flowing down the mountains. “The government should provide irrigation pump-sets to the farmers so that they could draw water from the river,” he said.

Shankara Naik, who grows areca and plantain on one acre of land, said that even a small eight feet wide bridge would be of great help. During the monsoon, it was difficult for people to travel because there was lot of flooding from the mountain.

“We don’t have proper connectivity for nearly six months. We take a lot of risk and send our children to school during the monsoon. We make temporary small bridges using wooden poles which don’t last long,” he said.

The village has only a primary school, where children can study up to class five. For high school, they have to go to the nearby Siddapura village, which is about 12 km away. “I have put my elder daughter in a government hostel and admitted her to the high school in Siddapura. Politicians come here during elections, promise to solve our problems and are later not to be seen,” Mr. Naik said.

Mahabala Naik, who grows areca, cashew, and coconuts on two acres of land, said that after the 2005 encounter, the people in the village were given Rs. 50,000 under the Ashraya Scheme and ration cards and nothing more. “Though we have been cultivating land here for generations, we do not have title deeds. The government should provide us with title deeds as it will give us a feeling of security,” he said.

Lachu Mogera, who is physically challenged, said that he had applied for the monthly pension for disabled persons. He had even approached politicians for it but to no avail. “Now my wife and I are totally dependent on my daughter, Saku, who earns Rs. 70 per day along with a kg of rice, when she goes to work in the nearby landlord’s house. The gram panchayat should make arrangements to provide tap water to us. My wife and daughter fetch water daily from the Chakra,” he said.

More In: Mangalore