No light at the end of this tunnel

No light at the end of this tunnel

More than 500 families in Uttara Kannada district live in utter darkness

No light at the end of this tunnel

Having six huge reservoirs, the Kali river basin contributes a major share to hydel power production in the State. It would have been safe to presume then that villages around the birthplace of Kali river get adequate power supply. On the contrary, they have not been electrified even to this day.

Situated in the dense forests of Western Ghats, not a single village in Bazarkunang gram panchayat limits in the backward Joida taluk of Uttara Kannada district has the luxury of power supply from the grid. To add to the misery, most even lack proper road connectivity and literally become islands during the rainy season, cutting them off from the rest of the world.

Bazarkunang village is around 80 km from the taluk headquarters. More 500 families live villages under the gram panchayat limits. Even the solar lamps provided by the State government and not-for profit organisations to some of the villages have gone defunct.

Bazarkunang is connected by road to Castle Rock (20 km) but villages like Diggi, Asulli, Karanje and Padshet remain cut-off in the rainy season. In summer, travel to these hamlets is possible by to jeeps.

Situated close to the Goa border, the region is a paradise for nature lovers but the villagers have been deprived of even the most basic facilities. They have to walk 15 km to reach Bazarkunang to catch a halting bus from Castle Rock. To see a doctor, they have to visit Castle Rock or Ramnagar.

Farming main occupation

Agriculture is the main occupation of the people and paddy the major crop. Konkani and Marathi are mostly widely spoken. As the area falls under the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, wild animals often damage crops. As a result, many villagers prefer to work in Goa.

At Kindale, a hamlet about three km from Bazarkunang, the lone solar streetlight has become defunct, and kerosene lamp is the only source of light. Like other villages nearby, the road becomes non-motorable when it rains.

Temporary wooden bridges have been erected so that villagers can cross the streams flowing across the bumpy road. While Castle Rock is the nearest town, villagers have to walk to reach the taluk headquarters.

“If someone takes ill, we have to carry them up to Bazarkunang where we can arrange a vehicle,” Arun S Gavade, a resident said. “The authorities say the thick forest is a hurdle in laying electricity lines or in building good roads. We don’t know when our wait for basic facilities would end.”

Nonetheless, the villagers have adjusted themselves to such a lifestyle. They are not worried about walking long distances. Heavy rains do not bother them. They are not afraid of wild animals, leeches or the dense forests. Most people have not even thought of relocating, another resident said.

Bazarkunang has a lower primary school. But students have to stay at hostels in Castle Rock or Ramnagar for further studies.

“Most solar lights installed in our village don’t work. Even the one in the school is defunct. After manganese mines were closed here in the late 1990s, people have started migrating to Goa. They come here only for a couple of months every year,” said Suresh Savanth, a resident of Bazarkunang.

Evacuation

Of around 3,800 families of forest dwellers in the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve (DATR), only 580 have volunteered for evacuation. The DATR has urged the Union government to provide Rs 50 crore for the purpose.

DATR Director B B Mallesha told Deccan Herald that no forest dwellers would be evacuated forcibly. People from small villages would be evacuated first.

“Each family would get Rs 10 lakh as compensation when the Centre releases the funds. As Uttara Kannada district has 80 per cent of forest cover, revenue land is hardly available. If the forest dwellers have to be relocated, the State government should provide land,” he said. The government would decide on developing roads and supplying power to the villages inside the forest, Mallesha  added.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)