A heavy-machine operator who was laying roads on the initiative of villagers from Jarthankollai, in Vellore district, was detained by forest department officials on Friday.
The village in the Jawadhu Hills, under Anaicut Union, is located around 25 km from Vellore.
To reach their village, Jarthankollai residents have to travel by vehicle up to Thellai, from where they have to trek across the hills for another 2 km to reach their village.
Rajasekar, president of Jarthankollai Panchayat, said, “There are about 4,500 people of the village who are forced to walk this steep path for years.”
Also, recently a person who complained of chest pain, died as he could not be carried down the hill at night and had to be taken to the hospital the next morning, he said.
About 24 teachers working in the middle school at Jarthankollai face difficulties walking to the village. The situation is the same for children going to the high school in nearby Keezharasampet.
The poor condition of the road also has, for the past 10 years, discouraged officials from setting up a Public Health Centre for which land was allotted to the Health Department at Jarthankollai.
The villagers submitted several petitions to the government to construct a road here, however, their efforts have been unfruitful.
So, they decided to lay the road on their own, after collecting Rs 1 lakh for the purpose.
Villagers hired a JCB machine and began the road clearing work on Thursday. On Friday, forest officials arrived at the spot and nabbed the JCB operator, Elangovan of Dharmapuri.
However, the operator was later released when the villagers, led by the panchayat president, approached the District Forest Office.
Elangovan was fined and the villagers were warned against continuing their road-laying initiative.
Forest officer T V Manjunatha said, “The land belongs to the Forest Department and laying of a road without the permission of the department is an offense.”