KOCHI: It has been two years since Kerala declared itself a fully electrified state. However, seeing the electric bulb glowing in their homes continues to be a far-flung dream for many tribals in the state. The limitations in drawing the power lines through forest areas pose a challenge to the attempt to light up their lives.
Though solar lamps were installed in some tribal colonies, the residents complained the equipment stopped functioning due to lack of maintenance. Though the KSEB laid underground power cable to a distance of 26 km for electrifying the 26 tribal hamlets in Edamalakudy tribal settlement area under Munnar forest range, only four colonies got power connection. There are 26 tribal colonies spread across 106 sq km in the deep forest. The Forest Department denied permission to draw overhead power lines as it can harm the wild animals.
“The KSEB had approached us for permission to draw overhead power lines. But that is not practical as it may harm the animals,” said Munnar Forest Range Officer M S Suchindranath. The tribal colonies of Kunchippara, Variam, Panthapra, Thalavachapara, Thera and Uriampetty under Kuttampuzha Forest Range also await the arrival of electricity.
“An NGO had installed solar units in our colony in 2014-15 with funds allocated from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund of Cochin Shipyard. They installed independent solar units for all the 75 households. The cost of each unit exceeded `1 lakh and each household was provided two LED lamps and one fan. But the units stopped functioning after some time and we are still dependent on kerosene lamps. The government is also not heeding to our demand for power connection citing the availability of solar power,” said Alli, the Kanikkaran of Kunchippara tribal colony.
When contacted, Cochin Shipyard company secretary V Kala said a team from the CSR wing of the shipyard will visit the colony and repair the units with the help of the implementing agency.“The tribals had applied for power connection, but we have limitations in sanctioning the amount as there is a non-tribal settlement at Kallelimedu near Kunchippara. Power lines are being drawn to Panthapra colony. Steps are being taken to install solar units in other colonies,” said tribal development officer G Anil Kumar.
Uriampetty decided to boycott polls this time, protesting the delay in installing solar units. But they later changed the decision due to pressure from parties. “There are 286 members belonging to 76 families in the colony. The panchayat had sanctioned 36 solar units for the colony and brought panels two years ago. However, the panels are lying dumped in the godown as the contractor withdrew citing financial loss. It seems panchayat has forgotten us,” said Gireesh a resident.
Power still a distant dream for them
Kochi: The tribal colonies of Kunchippara, Variam, Panthapra, Thalavachapara, Thera and Uriampetty under Kuttampuzha Forest Range also await the arrival of electricity.