In 50 years, only 20 children went to school in this Soliga hamlet

Social Welfare minister's New Year stay plan heralds hope in village

In 50 years, only 20 children went to school in this Soliga hamlet

India may be making concerted efforts to up its low literacy levels by bringing dropouts back to school. But the number of school going children at Gombegallu Podi hamlet in the Biligiri Ranganatha-swamy tiger reserve in the district is so low that it may take ages to raise literacy to a decent level.

Members of the Soliga tribe have been living in this godforsaken nook of the planet for the past five decades. But, the number of children from the tribe who have seen the face of school is just one score and no more.

Sidda Ketegowda is, perhaps, the most educated in the community among the 20 who have gone to school so far. He is a second BA student at the government first grade college in Chamarajanagar.

The hamlet is also an example of how India is a country of bizarre paradoxes. On the one hand, it is making great strides on the economic and scientific fronts.

Yet, there are countless hamlets, like Gombegalli Podi, tucked away in difficult terrains where provision for basic facilities still seem light years away.

Gombegallu Podi is untouched by the ‘development’ mantra that politicians have taken a fancy to.

Children here go to the residential learning centre at Keredimba, which is 2.5 km away. The centre functions for only nine months in a year. Children are admitted to the Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK) school at Biligiriranganathaswamy Hills, only if they attain a minimum learning ability.

Presently, there are two children in class I from Gombegallu Podi at VGKK. There is one student each from the hamlet in classes 4 and 5. The number of children in classes 6, 7, 8 and 9 are six, two and two, respectively. Sowmya is the lone student in class 10 from Gombegallu Podi.

The less said the better about basic healthcare facilities in the hamlet. The 190 residents from 29 families there have to trudge miles to get a decent treatment for their ailments.

It would indeed be a shame on the powers that be to call the shelters, which these people live under, homes. As many as 13 families live under structures built using wooden planks and mud. Something that may come down after heavy rain.

Leaves of teakwood trees and dried grass form the roofs. The other families reside in what are a semblance of houses. Five families are not even on the list of recipients of nutritious food distributed during rainy season.

Some of the families here have still not received title deeds for their homes under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Mounting misery on these families is the fact that they have to drink water collected in open pits, making them vulnerable to water-borne diseases.

C Madegowda, secretary of the District Tribals’ Development Association, says that there are 11 diploma holders in Education among the Soligas, including three women. Opening schools in the forest would provide these DEd holders employment, he said.

Minister for Social Welfare H Anjaneya has planned to spend the New Year’s Eve in the house of Padamma and Basava in the hamlet, in an effort to get a first-hand experience of the travails of the people. The couple plan to provide him ragi rotti, ragi balls, curry and honey for dinner.

The residents hope that it’s just not any other photo op for the minister and that they are delivered from the pitiable predicament, at least now.
DH News Service

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