Street lamps, lost during Cylone Thane, still not fixed
Despite holding voter IDs and ration cards, the Irula people of the ‘Irular Sandai’ in Bahour have been excluded from regular society and their colony lacks even the basic amenities.
The colony is located in the middle of a number of rice fields in the Bahour area. The colony has been living there for several generations and through the years, with the development of farming in the area, they moved from place to place until they finally reached their current location.
With the lack of space, 30 families are now living in 12 huts. During Cyclone Thane, they lost all their street lamps, and, till today, there has been no move to fix the lighting despite several representations to various government officials and ministers, Selvaraj, General Secretary of the Puducherry Scheduled Tribes People’s Federation, who also lives at the Irula colony, said.
Without lights in the colony or the surrounding areas, it becomes very difficult to navigate outside the colony at night. When there is an emergency, or if somebody falls sick, these people are forced to walk over two kilometres to get to the nearest medical shop or hospital, he said.
Even if they are called, medical officers refuse to come to the area, since it is very far and the access road is not well-maintained. When even there is even the slightest of rainfall in the area, the entire colony is partially submerged, leading to all the children falling sick. It is then impossible to take them to seek medical help, a woman from the colony said.
Poor water quality
Another problem that these people face is that the water in the colony is either from the surrounding fields or of very poor quality.
After repeated failed attempts to convince the authorities to give them either a borewell or a tap in the area, the Irula people have pooled in money to buy themselves a Sintex tank and a motor to ensure that they have water. Unfortunately, in the summer time, their water supply dries up, since their motor does not reach very deep, Mr. Selvaraj said. When there is no water in the field, they then have to rely on a hand pump, where the water is not potable. A sample of water from the pump was found to be extremely foul-smelling, with a thick layer of oil on top.
According to the President of the Federation, K. Ramkumar, it is only after much protest on behalf of the Irulas that the electricity and lighting was provided. After the Cyclone Thane, they have now lost their lighting and so far there has been no resolution to the issue.