Despite stringent forest rules, these villagers insist on road

Despite stringent forest rules, these villagers insist on road

People from Elaneeru, nearby villages living with 'unsolved' demands for decades

Despite stringent forest rules, these villagers insist on road

Over three decades ago, a timber merchant wanted to transport wooden logs from the forest (that later came to be known as Kudremukh National Park) to the depot in Moodbidri.

However, it wasn’t that easy, for the kutcha road inside a dense forest being a distant dream then. Unfazed, he found a way by removing trees inside the forest, that still remains the only ‘road’ connecting Elaneeru, a remote village inside the forest.

The muddy stretch with bends and curves, with stump rocks at spots, form what the villagers still describe as road connecting Belthangady taluk via Didupe, 11 km away, in Belthangady taluk. Most of the families that stayed inside forest earlier have shifted elsewhere, pocketing Rs 1.5 crore compensation per family—extended as rehabilitation package. Still 18 families reside inside the forest.

Their demand for proper road connectivity with asphalt and lit up with street lights still remains to be addressed, thanks to stringent forest rules that prohibits any construction activities inside forest to ensure minimal human intervention.

Officials visit

On Monday, when a battery of officials led by Dakshina Kannada zilla panchayat chief executive officer M R Ravi visited Elaneeru, same old demands reverberated with rekindled hopes, amid a sceptic few, who viewed it as perfunctory.

They were of the opinion that many officials including previous deputy commissioner of Dakshina Kannada A B Ibrahim and also former CEO P I Srividya had undertaken similar visits, but to no avail.

Y K Rajkumar, now aged 67, claimed to have grown up with the same demand. He said could do nothing but laugh, for he knew nothing would materialise, even as the officials inside the community centre at Elaneeru were doling out promises.

Said Rajkumar: “The treacherous road that connects Elaneeru, Guthyadka and Badamane from Didupe in Belthangady taluk is just 11 km. A part of the road, mostly four acre comes under forest area, still there is no hopes of getting either road or electricity facility. It is none other than the Supreme Court that can decide on the same, with Union Ministry of Environment and Forests not permitting any construction works inside forest area.” (Adding credence to this, M R Ravi too expressed his helplessness citing law).

Rajkumar said that while Elaneeru and surrounding villages come under Elaneeru ward-1 of Malavanthige Gram Panchayat in Belthangady, they find neighbouring Chikkamagaluru district convenient for visiting hospitals and education purpose.

Elaneeru, also the last village of Dakshina Kannada, shares border with Chikkamagaluru as Samse, a village coming under neighbour district is just a km away from the border. Kalasa, a prominent town in the same district, is at the distance of eight km from Elaneeru.

Though, KSRTC operates two buses connecting Elaneeru from Dharmasthala, Subramanya and Chikkamagaluru route, the villagers here have to shell not less than Rs 750 to hire a jeep from Elaneeru-Didupe-Elaneeru in case of any emergency. Barring jeep, no other four-wheeler vehicles can hit the road here.

Some even dare to take the road down by foot, that turns into daredevilry when the road turns slushy during rain. Even if they want to take KSRTC bus to Belthangady, they have to take a detour of over 100 km from Chikkamagaluru district, added Rajkumar along with his friend Mruthyunjaya Naik.

If that was about transportation, for power, they are self-reliant, tapping hydel power with abundant rivulets in the vicinity. It is suffice to keep TV, bulbs and other electrical appliances at home. Even in the case of cellphones, it is only at certain points inside home, they can converse uninterruptedly, for mobile towers too unavailable, Rajkumar said.

‘Will remain here’

Though the Forest department has been offering attractive rehabilitation package, Rajkumar is averse to it, for the reason that “it’s the only place where he find solace on earth.”

He further said, “My son is a civil engineer currently working on a project in Mysuru. Whenever I call him, he says he will come back to the forest soon after finishing the mundane work, as he is fed up of living in the city.”

Rajkumar said that moreover, if the road cannot be laid, it would be better to include Elaneeru and surrounding villages in Chikkamagaluru district against Dakshina Kannada now. But with a condition that Kalasa should be declared as taluk and Elaneeru should be brought under same taluk. “If the road is laid, we will be more than happy to remain in Dakshina Kannada,” he said.