While the Kalrayan Hills in Villupuram lack some of the most basic amenities, the people of the villages here are made to contend with an additional burden that is causing much hardship- apathy of officials.
One of the constant complaints of the villagers here is that the officials of the district administration hardly turn up at their offices to attend to the problems of the public.
The Kalrayan Hills block in the district consists of 15 Village Panchayats. Almost all of the entire population consists of tribes with a negligent number of Scheduled Castes in few of the villages in the area.
While the State and the Centre has introduced a number of schemes for the tribals, villagers in Kalrayan Hills say that their implementation has taken a beating thanks to lower-level officers of the district administration.
A classic case in hand are the Village Administrative Officers (VAO). According to these tribals, most of the VAOs in the block do not visit their respective villages at all.
Rather, most of them function out of their houses in far away places, which are at least 40 km away.
Take Murugesan of Arampoondi for example. The tribal says that for getting a new ration card, he had to travel all the way to Kallakurichi to meet the respective officer for the concerned approvals.
“It never gets done in one trip. We spend a day for the applications. And then we have to go again another time to go through the usual process,” he points out, adding that it took a month of tiresome trips, which cost him over Rs 500, to get the work done.
In several villages, fed up with the lack of response from the concerned officers, the tribals decided to take matters in their own hands to solve issues.
“In some of our places, we got tired of making representations for digging bore wells. So at one point, the villagers collected money from each household and at last dug borewells for water,” says a tribal woman from Pacherry. She said that the borewells, which are close to 300 ft deep, cost more than `60,000 to put up.
The situation hasn’t changed even after a number of agitations, both at the block level as well as at the district headquarters in Villupuram.
Villagers allege that the only time the officials turned up at the village was when the Ministers came to take stock of government schemes in the villages.
“On such days, you will see all of them here,” quips Mangammal, a 40-year-old mother of three children.