Whenever there’s a marriage in Mangal thanda where 40-odd tribal families live, the residents ensure that the newly married couple is first given an old truck tube. It is their life-jacket, so to say, with the help of which they cross the stream, Vattevagu, to buy their essential commodities.
This tiny tribal hamlet is located 12 km from Nekkanda railway station and has no villages adjacent to it. For all practical purposes, they have to go to Suripelli village for their needs, which is divided by the Vattevagu stream.
“I was born and brought up here. We have been living in this way for decades. When elections come, all political leaders promise to build a bridge but it has not materialised so far,” Bhadavath Panthulu, a 60-year-old resident of the thanda, told The Hindu.
Another resident, Bhukya Ravi, said they have to go to Suripelli village to secure rice and kerosene from a fair price shop. They have to depend on that village for all essential items. “Even if we want a small amount of money as loan, we have to go to Suripelli village,” he explained.
Each household in Mangal thanda possesses a huge truck tube. Even schoolchildren have to use them to cross the stream to reach school. If the stream flows in spate the residents do not venture out. Some people residing in Suripelli village also make floats of thermocole sheets wrapped in plastic bags.
An elderly woman, Bhukya Bhadri, of Mangal Thanda, says that during the past decade, three deaths were reported. Not only school-going children but even able-bodied youths who bravely ventured into the stream got washed away.
Ravi explains that they were happy until the construction of a check dam across the stream above. Earlier, there was no water during summer and people used to walk across the stream. With the check dam upstream, the stream is filled with water all through the year posing a threat to the lives of the tribal people, he said.