It is an uphill task for candidates contesting from the Chamarajanagar Lok Sabha constituency and the official machinery to reach Padasalanatta haadi (tribal settlement).
This haadi, located 18 km away from the Male Mahadeshwara Hills, has 237 voters and can be reached only through a kachcha road. Padasalanatta can be reached through Indiganatta from one side and Gopinatham from the other. Chances of an encounter with wild animals are high in the last 5-km stretch on either of the routes. Voters in this remote settlement belong to the Beda Gampana tribe and their dwellings are scattered around the hills.
The residents of Padasalanatta exercised their franchise in their own settlement for the first time during the 2013 Assembly elections. For the Lok Sabha elections too they will vote in their settlement on Thursday.
Earlier, they had to go to Indiganatta to vote.
Ramesha (36), who has studied up to Class 10, said despite voting their problems remain unsolved till date. “We have to trek to Kolattur (bordering Tamil Nadu) to buy groceries. We have to be cautious during the night and look out for elephants,” he said.
Those who can afford to hire donkeys use them to transport material. Even teachers carry books, uniforms and provisions needed for preparing food under the midday meal scheme on the back of donkeys. Those who cannot afford to hire donkeys, carry material on their heads. In case of emergency, patients are carried in a doli (cot) to Kolattur. As solar-powered lights do not work most of the times, residents have to depend on torches. Water too is scarce here.
The situation is by and large the same in 23 other haadis which come under the Male Mahadeshwara Hills range.
Residents of Doddane, Surapura and Puranipodu haadis had threatened to boycott the elections in protest against government “apathy” in solving their problems. Narasimahamurthy, Chief Executive Officer of the Chamarajanagar Zilla Panchayat, said, “We persuaded them to vote by promising to solve some of their problems soon.” According to D.M. Kunjappa, Returning Officer, Chamarajanagar, 43 polling stations have been set up in the forest areas of Hanur and Chamarajanagar taluks. Five of them located at Padasalanatta, Indiganatta, Doddane, Attikhane and Sebinakobe are difficult to reach.
“We are using Forest Department vehicles to transport men and material to those places. Range forest officers and forest guards have been drafted to protect voters from wild elephant attacks...,” Mr. Kunjappa said.