KOCHI: Ramaswamy and Olahappan, two tribal nonagenarians, were busy at the polling station at Kunchippara Badal School booth on Tuesday scolding youngsters for wasting time without casting their votes. Located 11 km away from Bhavana Kadavu check-post inside the dense forest, the booth wore a deserted look in the afternoon. The tribals were not keen to vote. However, the two elders visited each house, bringing people to the polling booth.
“Their agility is amazing. The road is difficult to climb. Olahappan has been roaming around the 3-km stretch since morning, bringing voters here,” said a civil police officer guarding the polling station. Voters at the booth comprise residents of Kunchippara and Variyam colony, besides 113 settler-farmer families of Kallelimedu.
To reach Kunchippara tribal colony, one has to cross the Pooyamkutty river in a raft (fit to carry a jeep) at Blavana Kadavu and trek the forest route for 11 km. Basic amenities like electricity, healthcare and schools are but dreams to the tribals here. During monsoon, when the river is in spate, the colonies get cut off from the external world. If someone falls ill, there is no way to reach a hospital.
Variyam colony is located 7 km away from Kunchippara. The rugged path meanders through dense forest with steep climbs and the trek is challenging.“Political parties arranged jeeps to bring voters from Variyam colony to the booth. They operated seven trips in the morning. Had the jeeps not been there, the colony’s tribals would not have come to vote,” said tribal promoter Bineesh Narayanan.
To improve polling percentage, Kuttampuzha village authorities had proposed to set up a polling booth at Variyam colony. However, political parties opposed the move. Another polling booth was set up at Thalavachapara, located four km away from Kunchippara. The electorate here includes tribals of Thalavachapara and Thera colonies.
“They (Candidates) give tall promises and vanish after the polls. All they want are our votes. None is concerned about our plight. We have been pleading with politicians for a bridge at Blavana Kadavu and lay a motorable road to the colony. Nothing happened. This election, no candidate visited us,” said Allu, the Kanikaran (secretary) of the colony.