KOCHI: Surrounded by thick forest where wild animals roam, 88 members of the tribal Kadar community, including 20 kids, have been living like refugees for the past 15 days. There’s no electric fencing to ward off wild animals, no roofing to save them from the vagaries of nature. Displaced by landslide and nowhere to go, the 23 tribal families live in tents made of plastic sheets and tree branches on rocky terrain at Anakkayam, near Pokalappara Forest Station under Vazhachal Forest Division. Their luxuries include a few mats, pillows and bed sheets. The women and children sleep inside the tents, while the men rest in the open.
It has been ten months since a massive landslide swept away a huge landmass close to their colony near Sholayar dam. From August 16, 2018, the tribals of Anakkayam colony have been living the life of vagabonds. Initially, they were shifted to the Forest Department quarters at Pokalapara. One month later, they were shifted to the KSEB workers quarters at Peringalkuthu.
With just days to go for the onset of monsoon, the taluk authorities asked them to vacate the quarters and return to the colony. However, with memories of the massive landslide still afresh in their minds, the tribals refused to return to Anakkayam colony. With nowhere to go, the tribal families have taken refuge atop a huge rock at Anakkayam.
“The government wants us to return to the colony. It is a danger zone and living there means inviting death. If it rains for two days continuously, the entire area surrounding the colony will be washed away. How can we live there in peace?” asked Mayilammal, a member of the community.
Meanwhile, a meeting convened by District Collector T V Anupama decided to seek the intervention of the State Disaster Management Authority. “In its report, the Geological Survey of India has said that there is no threat of another landslide in the area. However, experts from Kerala Forest Research Institute who visited the spot said the location is not safe. We want to relocate them before the onset of the monsoon but the tribals have refused to return to the colony. We will inform the government and urge an expert from the SDMA to visit the spot,” she said.
Raman, the Ooru Mooppan (tribal head) of the colony, said Vazhachal DFO S V Vinod has assured to help them out. “The DFO had convened a meeting to discuss our problem and assured to take up the matter with the district collector. We have identified a place. The DFO visited the spot and said he will inform the authorities. He urged us to return to the KSEB quarters till an alternate arrangement is made,” said Raman.
“The tribals have suggested a new location which they feel is ideal to set up a colony. The Forest department is ready to give them land. The Scheduled Tribes Department has to allocate funds to build the houses and provide basic amenities. But it will take at least one year to develop the colony,” said DFO Vinod.