At Vathuruthy, spotlight on access to basic facilities

The campaign posters of both LDF and UDF in Vathuruthy, where a strong contest is on.   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

A large section of residents of Vathuruthy, who are workers from Tamil Nadu, may not be able to vote in Kerala, but electioneering is on at full-throttle on the southern end of Willingdon Island, with the spotlight on access to basic facilities like health centre.

The division of Island South of the Kochi Corporation comprising the Naval Base and the Vathuruthy residential area, has around 4,400 voters, and has remained a UDF stronghold for the past 25 years. Of the total number of voters, around 2,000 are likely to be residents of Vathuruthy, according to Vibin Raj K.R., the LDF candidate from the area. That is only a fraction of the area’s total population, roughly estimated to be between 5,000 and 6,000, jostling for space on nine acres.

Save for the tiling of alleys that separate houses, the proliferation of public taps and the construction of a community hall and homoeopathy dispensary that functions out of the same building, little has changed over the years.

“The perception of the place as a slum has not changed. But it is for the State government to do something about that,” said Sheeba Dixon, a resident.

Housing is still an issue, Mr. Vibin says. Around 20 families await title deeds, and several homes are single-room structures with tin roofs, some with no toilets in them, which has necessitated the construction of 24 public toilets. At high tide, water from the clogged canal that lies behind the colony sometimes enters homes.

The tussle for the division this time is between members of the youth wings of the CPI(M) and the Indian National Congress. While Mr. Vibin was part of the DYFI, Tibin Devassy, the UDF candidate, was the district general secretary of the Youth Congress.

Both candidates, who are residents of the area, have promised that the ground at one end of the colony will be converted into a football field. Around 50 football players would pick a candidate to support depending on who was most likely to meet their demand, said a youngster from the area who asked not to be named.

Nagalakshmi, a construction worker from Madurai who has lived in Vathuruthy for 27 years, is among the workers from Tamil Nadu who can vote here. Her loyalties are clear, she says. An INTUC-affiliated union brings her regular work. Jyothi, however, is from Dindigul and has been living in Vathuruthy for 16 years, but cannot vote. She is not part of a trade union either, she says. Several workers who went home in March are yet to return.

Vathuruthy still lacks a primary health centre since sufficient space is not available, said outgoing UDF councillor Shakrutha Sureshbabu. Mr. Devassy and Mr. Vibin are promising to set up a health centre in the area.

The division sees a low voter turnout, particularly among officers at the Naval Base, Ms. Sureshbabu says.

Prasad V.G., a retired aeronautical maintenance engineer at the Naval Base, is the BJP candidate from the area. “This division saw the lowest polling percentage in 2015. We hope to bring that up this time,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 9:57:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/at-vathuruthy-spotlight-on-access-to-basic-facilities/article33197205.ece

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