Roads, electricity, and provision of drinking water topped the list of problems of people in the 12 naxal-affected villages in Belthangady taluk. These were spread in and around the Kudremukh National Park.
During a meeting organised jointly by the district administration and the district police here on Friday at Navoor, these were the demands of a majority of the people.
However, some of the people who attended the meeting were angered by the Deputy Commissioner's own admission that new roads could not be constructed inside the Kudremukh National Park, where around 300 families lived.
Harish Sulkeri said that they had to walk 5 km to reach the nearest road. Ganesh and Revathi, who were among the Malekudiyas who were evicted from Sulkeri village in January for having built houses on government land, demanded that they be given land to build houses.
Deputy Commissioner N.S. Channappa Gowda said that he would look into the issue.
When it appeared that the meeting was about to close, a man stood up and said: “You have to let me speak. I have come from abroad. I live in Elaneer village. It is 3,000 feet above the sea level and I have to walk a lot. It is almost like coming from a foreign country.”
Although his words drew laughter from the crowd, Arun Kumar said they did not have drinking water, electricity, roads or any other basic facilities in their village. “We are stuck like an areca nut in an ada katthi (scissor-like implement to cut areaca nut). Neither here nor there,” he said.
He demanded that the government fix compensation according to the value of their assets rather than limit it to Rs. 10 lakh. Mr. Gowda said he had written to the government in this regard.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Gowda promised that he would visit Kutlur village on September 26 and he would make the road connectivity a priority and ensured the repair of all solar lights that were not in working order.
However, a man from a naxal-affected village said on condition of anonymity that he was confused as to why the meeting was held “when they can't give us anything”.
Although the district administration was proposing solar lights, solar electricity could not power an irrigation pump set, and there was a need of it in the upper areas of the hills. “After saying all this, they tell us that we will give you Rs. 10 lakh. I'm really confused.”
“If they can give all basic amenities to people living just outside the park, why leave us out? If they give us these basic amenities, and ensure that we protect our crops from forest animals, then we will stay inside the park,” the man said.