THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Girija Devi, 24, a native of Thenmala tribal settlement in Thodumala ward in Amboori grama panchayat, had a tough time when her mother Neelamma was under cancer treatment at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College.Besides the mental agony, every hospital visit also left her and her mother physically drained as they had to depend on the ferry service near their hamlet to reach the other side, from where they had to travel all the way to the hospital.
Girija had a similar experience on Tuesday when she cast her maiden vote in the assembly elections. She had to travel all the way to the ferry station and got to the nearest polling booth in Mayam, some 10 km away from the hamlet.Girija’s predicament is shared by the 800 tribal families living in 11 settlements in the ward. They have, time and again, demanded a polling booth in the hamlet. Though it was met during last year’s local body polls, the elections on Tuesday saw the families using ferry services from their hamlets to reach the booths.
“There are 1,400 voters here. Yet the request for a polling station near the hamlet wasn’t met. There are residents who had to walk over 10km and use two ferry services,” says Shibu Chakkappara, former ward member, who also cast his vote at Mayam.
The polling day reflected the sad state of affairs of the tribal families. The locality lacks roads, educational centre, drinking water supply and other basic facilities. Despite all this, they cast their vote every election hoping for a change.Four ferries keep life going for Thodumala residents.
“Anyone who falls sick has to be carried in a chair to the river bank and taken to the other side,” said Balakrishnan Kani, a native of Pularimala settlement in the ward, who ferries people.For Girija, the ordeal the family had to face is still fresh. Neelamma is no more. “It was a testing time. With her chemotherapy and medical treatments, it was hard. This is my maiden vote. I hope things will change,” said Girija.