Gavi villagers clamouring for renovation of their dilapidated layams

Fifty-four-year-old Rani Thankavelu, a worker of the KFDC's plantation, said the doors and windows of their layam became damaged due to lack of maintenance

Published: 02nd August 2021 12:03 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd August 2021 12:03 PM   |  A+A-

Rani Thankavelu, a KFDC plantation worker in her layam at Gavi.

Express News Service

PATHANAMTHITTA: "When my wife and children sleep, I remain awake at night if it is raining cats and dogs outside fearing that our layam (line) house will collapse. Our layams were constructed 36 years ago. These are owned by Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC). Since then, no proper maintenance works have been done. Hence, our layam and toilets are in a deplorable state," said Rajan, a villager of Gavi.

According to Rajan, over 280 families living in layams of KFDC in Gavi are in a pathetic state. The villagers live in the forest land and they work in the cardamom plantations and eco-tourism projects of KFDC for their livelihood. They speak Sinhala, Tamil and Malayalam. The layams were constructed by KFDC for accommodating the plantation workers in 1985.

Fifty-four-year-old Rani Thankavelu, a worker of the KFDC's plantation, said the doors and windows of their layam became damaged due to lack of maintenance. "We cover the windows and door portions using tarpaulin sheets and sacks. But during rain, the water comes inside. The condition of the toilets is beyond words. What can we do? We are somehow using it. We have requested the authorities concerned to allocate funds for the repair works. But no proper work has been carried out so far," she said.

Chandrakumar, a young member of a Sri Lankan Tamil family of Gavi, said they place sacks filled with sand over the roof of their house every rainy season. "Other?wise, the asbestos sheets will be blown away by strong winds. We have requested the authorities for help, but our pleas have fallen on deaf ears," he said.

A majority of families in Gavi are Sri Lankan Tamilians. Tamilians, who had gone to Sri Lanka earlier, were brought back to India first as part of an agreement signed between the India and Sri Lanka governments in 1964. From the 1970s, at least 700 Sri Lankan Tamil families had been staying here. Later, many of them left to other parts like Vandiperiyar, Vallakadavu, Kollam and Tamil Nadu for better living conditions. After coming from Sri Lanka, they cleared some areas of the thick forest in Gavi and started cultivation. During the 1970s, the daily wage of a worker in KFDC's plantation was only Rs 4.50. At present, the wage is Rs 436. The retirement age is 58 years and after that, they live using their pension.

A KFDC official said that they are not able to do the maintenance works of layams due to the fund shortage. "Gavi is in ward three of Seethathodu grama panchayat. They had earmarked around Rs 2.5 crore for the renovation of the layams during 2019-2020 and we were ready to provide all support. But the panchayat authorities did not execute it," said the official.

Seethathodu panchayat president Joby T Easow said though the panchayat had rolled out a project for allocating funds for the maintenance works of the layams in Gavi, they could not execute it as the buildings are owned by KFDC. "Legally, the panchayat cannot give its funds for the maintenance works of the buildings owned by KFDC," said Easow.

Gavi Layam


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