A tale of a tribal hamlet

A tale of a tribal hamlet

It takes 1 hour for a jeep to cover 9 kms to reach Malekudiyas in Banjarumale

A tale of a tribal hamlet

It takes hardly 35 minutes to reach Bangalore from Mangalore in a flight, but it takes three hours by road to reach this tiny village called Banjarumale (a tribal hamlet) at Neriya gram panchayat in Belthangady taluk, which is hardly 90 kms away from Mangalore.

Interestingly, no deputy commissioner has ever visited this village except former Deputy Commissioner S K Das, who made an attempt to visit the village in 1983, but returned halfway after travelling a few kms by walk due to rise in water-level in the river. “Since then, no deputy commissioner has made any attempt to visit the village,” recalls Krishna, the unanimously elected member of Neriya GP.

In fact, the village has a ‘stage’ constructed to welcome the then Deputy Commissioner S K Das, but he could not make it. Since then, it is known as “DC Katte” and the villagers continue to await for a DC to listen to their woes.

Village sans facilities

The only road to the village is through the Charmadi Ghat. Take a diversion at the 9th curve of Charmadi Ghat (about 30 kms Belthangady or 9 kms from Kakkinje) and travel for 9 kms in the dense forest.

Though one can reach the village through jeeps (only 4-wheel driven), they charge anywhere between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 to travel 9 kms and it takes more than one hour to travel 9 kms.

On the other hand, the region is one of the very few regions in the district which is still not easily accessible. The nearest petty shop is 20 kms away and the nearest school is 25 kms away. However, many children study in the Ashram school (residential) in Neriya. The nearest primary health centre too is 25 kms away, but there is no doctor for the last one year!

Power rationing

As the village is remotely located and lies amidst dense forest, the village does not have electricty supply. But there is a 10 KW mini-hydel power project set up by the SKDRDP in association with the district administration and ‘Tide’ in 2002.

The then Social Welfare Minister Kagodu Thimmappa had inaugurated the facility while the then Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer Gonal Bheemappa had extended all the help, recalls GP former president P K Rajan. However, at present, the capacity has gone down to 5 KW and a few houses get power supply only between 6 pm and 8 am and the power consumers have to pay a nominal fee of Rs 100 per month as maintainance charges.

There is a WLL telephone in the village and a television too, but it operates only if there is power supply! On the other hand, there are many houses without power supply too and they still depend on kerosene lamps.

In spite of all odds, the villagers do not complain about lack of facilities. “Our only demand is repair of existing road, which is in pathetic condition, so that vehicles could reach the village and the sick could quickly get help; construction of a bridge across Sunalu river and Lakkdarpe stream, so that they can reach Aniyur, another route to reach Charmadi road; and appointment of a doctor for PHC at Neriya.

“Minus these few demands, we are happy as we don’t get newspapers or come to know anything that happens anywhere in the world other than our village,” says Laxman, another villager, in a lighter vein. There are a few youth, who have seen the portals of the college, but they are working in Bangalore and Mysore among other places in search of greener pastures.

Agriculture lifeline

The tribals in Banjarumale were earlier cultivating paddy, but they shifted to arecanut, coconut, rubber and banana plantation following wild elephant menace.

Besides wild elephants, the tribals also face the wrath of wild boars, wild buffalos and monkeys. There are many Malekudiyas who go to work in nearby estates too.

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