A polling booth is being set up in this remote tribal hamlet for the first time. Lack of connectivity and fear of wild animals have kept candidates away

Access to the Padasalanatta tribal settlement in Chamarajanagar district is literally an uphill task. The haadi (settlement), 18 km from Male Mahadeshwara Hills, is reached via a boulder-strewn road that even the toughest of vehicles would fear to traverse.

But the good news is that for the first time, 189 voters of this remote settlement will exercise their franchise in their village on Sunday. M.V. Savithri, Deputy Commissioner Chamarajanagar, has succeeded in setting up a polling booth at Padasalanatta, which has a population of 200 tribal people. They had to vote from Indaganatha settlement for earlier elections.

Early this week, Ms. Savithri had trekked 4 km to the village to persuade the residents, who were planning to boycott elections in protest against the apathy of elected representatives, to exercise their franchise. “Adivasis, who have got voter ID cards, finally relented after I assured them of addressing their issues,” she said.

M. Mahadevaswamy, Sectoral Magistrate, along with three presiding officers and Electronic Voting Machines, left for Padasalanatta on Saturday morning. “I am elated, as it is a lifetime experience for me,” he said.

Padsalanatta can be reached through Indiganatha from one side and Gopinatham from the other. This correspondent reached the village from the Gopinatham side by trekking 6 km through terrain that often sees wild bison and elephants.

People in this remote part area belong to the Beda Gampana tribe and their houses are scattered around the hill. Lack of connectivity and fear of wild animals have kept candidates contesting from Hanur Assembly constituency from visiting Padasalanatta, which comes under the constituency.

However, voters are politically conscious and know who their candidates are. “None has come seeking votes. Initially we decided to boycott elections. However, we relented after the Deputy Commissioner promised to address our problems,” said Dummada (45), a farmer who grows ragi.

“We had voted in the past, but our problems were never solved. Connectivity is the biggest problem. We have to trek to Kolatthur to fetch groceries and drinking water,” said Ramesh, the only one to have studied up to Class 10 in the village.

Those who can afford donkeys on hire, use the beast to transport material. The donkeys have a designated area to halt in Nagamalai. Even teachers carry books, uniforms and provisions to prepare food under the midday meal scheme on the back of donkeys.

Carry on their backs

Those who cannot afford to hire donkeys, carry material on their backs.

“In case of emergency, patients are carried in doli (a cot) to Kolattur,” said Madamma (85).

The district administration has promised to improve conditions after the elections. “People in the village drink water from unhygienic sources. Four borewells will be dug once elections are over,” promised Ms. Savithri.

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