Residents of three coastal villages threaten poll boycott

PIL plea challenges govt.’s decision to upgrade panchayat union to municipality

February 12, 2022 07:31 pm | Updated July 06, 2022 12:43 pm IST - MADURAI

When Kollancode became a town panchayat in 1977, the residents were promised that the upgrade would bring many amenities and better infrastructure. But the residents say they were let down “as nothing much materialised” on this coastal belt.

When it was announced a few months back that Kollencode with 21 wards and Ezhudesam with 11 wards would be merged to form Kollencode Municipality, they were infuriated.

Residents of eight wards from three villages – Vallavilai, Marthandamthurai and Neerodi – staged a token protest with their parish priests and political leaders at Marthandamthurai on January 25.

Again they gathered in front of Vallavilai VAO office on February 4 and threatened to return their identity cards. Now they have issued an ultimatum that they will boycott the urban local bodies elections.

C. Rino, a Vallavilai resident, said, “Under a municipality, we have to run from pillar to post to get any plan approval. The taxes will be higher. Moreover, there is no uniformity in the size of the ward. For instance, there are wards with 1,500 and even 400 people in nearby Colachel panchayat. But in Kollencode municipality every ward has more than 3,000 people. So we stand to lose when development works are planned.”

A resident of Neerodi said after the coastal road was cut at Edappadu due to sea erosion, people from Vallavilai side had to take a seven-km detour to reach Eraviputhanthurai, Chinnathurai, Thoothoor, Poonthurai, Erayumanthurai, Thengapattinam and beyond along the coast.

Students from Vallavilai side and from villages in Kerala studying in St. Jude’s College in Thoothur had also been affected. Many places such as Kirathur and Manjathoppu which were flooded during the recent rains were still facing water stagnation, he said.

As things stand in this state, a public interest litigation petition has been filed at the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court by Mr. Rino challenging the government’s decision to merge the town panchayat with Ezhudesam town panchayat to create Kollencode Municipality.

The petitioner said the villagers wanted the government to retain the villages under Kollencode town panchayat for better grassroots governance.

He said most of these villagers were engaged in fishing and allied activities. These villages were thickly populated and there was no land available for any development project. It was only in 2010 that an ill-equipped primary health centre was established in the town panchayat.

Though Kollencode town panchayat would get more facilities if upgraded to municipality, the people of these three villages would not benefit due to lack of adequate land, he said.

In another public interest litigation petition filed before the High Court pertaining to Colachel Municipality, K. Rajan said over 50% of the geographical area was seashore where fishermen lived. The rest of the population were mostly engaged in agriculture.

Out of the 24 wards of Colachel Municipality, earlier 11 wards were allotted to the areas inhabited by the people from the coastal area. But, in the 2018 delimitation process the number of wards for the coastal areas was reduced to seven.

The total number of voters in the urban areas was 9,342, for which 14 wards had been allotted. The coastal areas with seven wards had 9,682 voters. The area dominated by Muslims had got three wards for 3,718 voters.

In 2019, a representation was made to the State Election Commission to increase the number of wards assigned to the people in the coastal areas to 15. But, it was not considered, the petitioner said.

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