THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A colourless Vishu awaits them this year. Being dumped in a single room along with 12 other families, celebrations do not make much of a difference to them, nor do the elections, just a week away.
Almost a month since the fishermen families were evicted from their small huts damaged in rampant sea erosion, the twelve families comprising around 40 people found themselves in an Anganwadi along the coastal belt of Valiyathura.
“Why don’t you come and see for yourself the ‘sufficient facilities’ the authorities have ensured for us? We have teenage daughters and there’s no safety and security here. This small room here cannot accommodate all of us.
During the day some of us have to stay outside as there’s no space within the four walls to even place your foot. At night, the women and children remain inside, while the men sleep outside, guarding those inside. We have just one toilet here. What do they expect us to do?” asks Mariya, who sells fish at the Chalai Market.
Even in the face of roaring sea waves, many of them were unwilling to leave their houses. However the police along with other authorities and the local priest from the Church insisted they should vacate for their safety.
They were brought to the Anganwadi which lacks basic facilities. “The village officer who occasionally comes does not initiate conversation, instead just ensures if we're alive. Once I even picked up a fight with him," says Sebastian, who stays with his family.
Since there’s an acute space shortage, they run a common kitchen. Right from 80-year old Bridget, 77-year old Baby to small kids, they have now become one big family. Hailing from varied backgrounds and pursuing drastically different professions, none of this stand in the way of their camaraderie.
The last week of March was rather difficult as the children had examinations.
“There’s no proper toilet, drinking water or anything. At times, even using the toilet becomes a Herculean task. The children have to go to school. We need to look after the elders. We have been literally on our toes for the past four weeks. They don’t value us even during the elections,” laments Solomon, who stays with his wife.
“He’s right now on his death bed, but I simply cannot afford to be at his side all the time. Only if I sell fish, will I have enough money to meet the funeral expenses,” shares 62-year old Baby, a fish seller here, referring to her husband Antony.
All along the coastal belt, scores of Babys and Mariyas drudge through life with no hope. Without a roof over their heads, promises of clean toilets and pure drinking water sound ironic when meted out only around election time.