Seventeen families of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes are living in an area surrounded by filth in Bajpe.

They told The Hindu on Saturday that gram panchayat officials did not take steps to clear the filth despite repeated requests.

Families of Koraga, Samagaara, and Naik communities have been living in the Thotlaguri area behind the Bajpe bus-stand for over 20 years. The road to the area is nothing but a few worn out laterite stones sloping off the ground behind the bus-stand. The houses are located in a straight line, parallel to the line of shops near the bus-stand area which is elevated. Like a road cut out in a hill, the ground in front of the houses is flat, only a short strip of land which disappears into a gorge filled with rubbish.

Almost in tears, a pregnant Sujata (24) said: “We want to live as other women do. We never had education, or else, we too may have had good jobs. But there is no one to tell us what we can do about this situation.”

Nearly all the people said that sewage from the shops and hotels above flowed near their houses in the open, emitting foul smell.

They said the taluk panchayat members had visited the area once and got it cleaned. But it was soon back to square one as sewage from hotels and shops started flowing there again.

Sheela (40) said that sewage discharged from a hotel above regularly entered her house. Ms. Sujata said that it was impossible to remain outside after dark because of mosquitoes.

Another major problem for them is the lack of a path to their houses, which is dangerous for children.

Ms. Sujata said toilets were constructed on the spot where the road was.

The panchayat had promised to set it right, but it had been a year that there was no proper road to reach the bus-stand.

Jayalakshmi (17) said even if the panchayat could not give them houses elsewhere, they could at least ensure that the waste was cleared from the area.

Bajpe panchayat president Sahul Hameed said the hotels had encroached upon the government land. He said he had asked the shop owners to clean the mess and that they had done it.

Asked why he could not demolish the hotels if they were illegal, Mr. Hameed said: “As an elected representative, how would it be if I demolished the shops? Besides, it is the Deputy Commissioner who can do it.” About the road, Mr. Hameed said that the residents did have access to the road.

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