THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Things are back to square one for the nearly 750-odd families living on the outskirts of the state capital. With the polling booth on the other side of the river, close to 1,400 voters at Puravimala in the Thodumala ward of Amboori panchayat near the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border are unsure about exactly how many of them would be able to vote in the April 23 General Elections.
"We have raised the issue with the authorities including the election officers, and had demanded that a polling booth be set up at the Government Tribal School in Puravimala. In fact, last time when elections to the local bodies were held, we had a booth here. We thought they would do the same this time too. But they have now declared that our polling booth will be at Mayam, which is on the other bank of the Karippar river," said Maniyan Kani, the Ooru Mooppan (chief of hamlet) here.
Located near Anappara-Amboori-Mayam-Koottappu stretch, Thodumala, a tribal settlement along the forest, comprises about 750 families. People living in other settlements at Chakkappara, Puravimala and Thenmala are also incorporated under the Thodumala ward. The District Tribal Mission has been actively taking up issues related to the tribals here.
Though there's a long road stretch to reach Puravimala, a 20-minute trip made in country boats is the easiest and most preferred mode of transport. Demand for a bridge to connect the tribal settlement with the outside world has been pending for long. At present, they have to traverse about 10 km to connect with the outside world, buy goods or see a doctor.
"It was about five years ago when the Oommen Chandy government was in power, that a foundation stone was laid for constructing a bridge. The project hasn't moved forward much. If the bridge comes up at Karikkuzhy, we can save about four km of travel. Lack of proper connectivity is a major issue here. About six months ago, one person died due to cardiac arrest in the night, as there was no facility available to take him to the hospital. ," adds Maniyan Kani.
A few roads were constructed using the MP funds, but these are not enough, says 35-year-old Satheesh, a labourer.There are about 1,400 tribal voters here, in addition to about 370 other voters. "The shifting of the polling booth to Mayam is definitely going to affect the voting pattern. Many elders and those with illnesses may not turn up. They should have taken our convenience into consideration," he said.