People of Uralagallu, a village on the hilly terrain in Sagar taluk bordering Uttara Kannada, have been living with no power supply and road to reach the outer world, for nearly 60 years.
Forget school, they do not have an anganwadi centre, polling booth, or primary health centre. Besides that, it has been years since a government representative visited this place. This is the plight of a village in Shivamogga district, the native place of Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.
Uralagallu is a village of 49 families, spread over hamlets - Cheekanahalli, Salakodu, Dasanamane, Hebbanakeri, Munduvala, Melur, and Uralagallu. They grow paddy and areca in the land they own.
The residents once lived in Byakodu hobli of Sagar taluk, from where they were shifted to allow Sharavathi dam to come up in 1960. The dam was constructed to generate power, but ironically, the people who were shifted have not got power supply in these years. Some households have solar power, installed because of the intervention of former Minister Kagodu Thimmappa. But, they too don’t work during heavy rain.
The nearest anganwadi centre is in Kanur, about 10 km away from the village. The panchayat headquarters at Bhanukuli is about 20 km away. And the taluk headquarter Sagar is 80 km far from the place.
“How can you expect us to send our children to an anganwadi so far from our place?” asked Yuvaraj, father of three, at Cheekanahalli. Almost all parents send their children to either hostels or their relatives’ places for studies. Except for a couple of boys, nobody has completed graduation. Among the girls, hardly few have studied up to SSLC.
The villagers have to cross the hills taking a rough and tortuous path to reach Kanur to catch a bus. Gowramma, a resident, said that when children return to school after vacations, the parents have to drop them at Kanur to catch the only bus at 6.30 a.m. “To catch the bus, we have to get up at 3.30 a.m., get ready and walk for hours to reach before the bus arrives. If we miss the bus, there is no alternative, we have to return by walk,” she said. The bus has stopped since the lockdown over COVID-19.
For several years, no elected representative, officer, or representative of the gram panchayat has visited the village. “Forget senior officers at the taluk and district centres, even officers of Bhanukuli Gram Panchayat hold ward meetings of Uralagallu village at Kanur, forcing the people to walk 10 km,” said Nagaraj, a resident of Salukodu.
“On polling day, we go to Kanur to exercise our right to vote. The road is not comfortable even for two-wheelers. Many have fallen on the stretch suffering serious injuries, as the entire road becomes slippery,” said Ramachandra, a resident. This reporter had to depend on a two-wheeler of a local person to cross the stretch.
The people have submitted memorandums seeking road and other benefits. But, their efforts have not yielded fruits, as the entire area, except the agriculture area, is part of Sharavati Wildlife Sanctuary. “We got a road sanctioned towards Bhatkal taluk from the village. But, the forest officials objected to it. Compared to Sagar, the taluk headquarters, we are nearer to Bhatkal taluk. Murudeshwara, a popular temple town, is about 19 km away,” said Y. Naveen, a youth in the village.
The residents said they have built houses and grown areca plantations for the last 60 years, but they need road and power to lead a life with minimum comforts. “For decades, we have not seen power connection. MESCOM conducted a survey but did not proceed further citing objections from the Forest Department,” said Anand, a graduate from the village. The residents want Mr. Yediyurappa to listen to their demands and address them.