Lingering insecurities over the rehabilitation and “poor” implementation of the special package for Naxal-affected areas should remain in the priority list of Lok Sabha candidates, said residents of Kudremukh National Park.

While residents believe the activities and the lure of Maoists had reduced, the attack on an environmental worker accused of aiding the displacement of tribals, allegedly by Maoists, on November 9 last year indicates the usage of the fissures among the tribal community over rehabilitation.

Booth seven km away

Perched on hill-tops deep within the park limits, households in areas such as Kuthloor, Naravi, Mapalla, Navoor have lived in virtual isolation. On Thursday – as they have to do on days when they need to interface with the government or go to the market to buy household things – the villagers have to walk up to seven km, to reach their nearest polling booth.

“If I leave my house at 7.30 a.m. for voting, I can be back home around 2 p.m.,” said Vasant Poojary, a farmer in Nelyatadka near Kuthloor.

Basic amenities

With the forest department tacitly prohibiting development within the park limits, he said every election was a chance to remind the candidates that they were still being deprived of basic amenities.

There is no electricity in his hamlet, and the nearest road ends at the entrance of the park nearly five km away. This is especially dire for him as his son Guruprasad (16), who is an endosulfan victim, needs to be taken to the hospital often.

He awaits rehabilitation, which is a long process. Shashidhar Malekudiya (20), whose family shifted out of Kuthloor to Osmaru near Naravi nearly two months ago, believes the government should be more proactive in accepting and processing requests.

Those who have shifted out are still waiting for the compensation promised. Tunga Poojary, who shifted out to Mapalla near Karkala, said the government had yet to give him Rs. 1.5 lakh of the promised Rs. 12.5 lakh.

However, for those whose identities are linked with their forest land, rehabilitation is not an option. Poovappa Malekudiya from Kuthloor categorically says he will stay despite enhanced compensation.

Instead, he wants the Naxal-package to be implemented in full. “We have heard crores of rupees are being allotted to development, but apart from small works of asphalting roads outside the park limits, we have not had any benefits,” he said.

In Mallige Mane village nearby, Harish Malekudiya, who does not want to part with his land, says the insecurity surrounding rehabilitation needs to be addressed.

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