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 km 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 km 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 km from Belthangady or 9 km from Kakkinje) and travel for about 9 km 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 km and it takes more than one hour to travel the distance.
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 km away and the nearest school is 25 km away. However, many children study in the Ashram school (residential) in Neriya. The nearest primary health centre too is 25 km away, but there has been no doctor for the last one year!
As the village is remotely located and lies amidst dense forest, it 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 ZP CEO 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 they operate only if there is power supply! On the other hand, there are many houses without power supply and they still depend on kerosene lamps.
Despite all odds, the villagers do not complain about lack of facilities. “Our only demand is repair of the existing road, which is in a 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.
The tribals in Banjarumale were earlier cultivating paddy, but they shifted to arecanut, coconut, rubber and banana plantation following the wild elephant menace. Besides wild elephants, the tribals also face the wrath of wild boars, wild buffaloes and monkeys. There are many Malekudiyas who go to work in nearby estates too.
Paradise and paradox
It is true that the tribals do not have basic amenities. But for any visitor from the City, the road is literally a road to paradise. The visitors will be welcomed with several natural waterfalls and one can hear the sound of water flowing, the sounds of insects and birds chirping,
As the village is literally cut off from the outside world, there is no vehicular pollution.
On the other hand, as far as the villagers are concerned, they visit the town (Belthangady) once in a week or a month to get necessary goods and most of them walk to the main road (10 km) to take a bus to Belthangady. If anybody is sick, then the only option is to carry them in bedsheets to the road, which is 9 to 10 km away.