A 15-km drive to the south of Mangalore takes you to one of most enchanting beaches of Coastal Karnataka. The pristine Someshwara beach is in the jurisdiction of the Someshwara Gram Panchayat, that is going to the polls today.

There is a decrepit funeral facility a few yards from the shore, built in 2001 with funds from the gram panchayat, Sri Kshethra Dharmasthala Rural Development Project and donor contributions. The asbestos sheets and metal rafters have caved in and the metal incinerator has rusted.

“We stopped using the facility five years ago,” said Venkappa Gatti of Ombattukere, a part of the GP. “We are forced to take our dead to far-off Thokkottu,” he said.

The road leading to the facility is hardly motorable. In fact, many roads in village Uchila, where thousands of fisherfolk reside, have not been tarred for years. “Elections will make no difference,” said shop-keeper Padmanabha S. A couple of his customers agreed.

Having seen little development, the village residents have been demanding that Someshwara should get the status of a town panchayat. The fisherfolk said they would be able to build houses on their own lands only after change in the status of the panchayat. The provisions of the Coastal Regulatory Zone Notification, 1991, prevent fishermen from building houses up to 200 metres from the high-tide line. The notification, however, exempts town municipalities from this rule. Panchayat officials said they get five to six applications for construction of houses every month, but they are rejected because of the notification.

For more funds

The GP officials and the former president of the panchayat, Mohan Shetty, said only a change in the status could bring in more funds for development. “The funds we get (about Rs. 6 lakh a year) for the GP are too meagre for any development,” Mr. Shetty said.

The panchayat has a population of more than 30,000 and the area covered (2,063 acres) qualifies for a town panchayat. Mr. Shetty said the people of the village had been boycotting the elections to press for their demands. But since it had not served any purpose, the leaders had decided to take part in the elections this time. The members will seek a change in status immediately after the elections.

“There is no place even to conduct a meeting for all 51 members in the panchayat,” Mr. Shetty said.

Keywords: Public demand

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