SALEM: Shortage of government staff for any administrative unit may not many raise eyebrows in India. However, the apparently over-staffed revenue administration in Yercaud has been plagued by a rather unusual problem as most of their officers cater to practically non-existent villages or lands with no human habitations.
With 67 tribal villages grouped under nine village panchayats, the tiny hill range is a separate development block under a panchayat union.
From the point of view of the Revenue Department, Yercaud is also a separate taluk. Earlier, nine Village Administrative Officers (VAO) catered to the far flung tribal villages and hamlets in the region.
However, since there was a shortage in the number of village assistants to effectively reach out to these remote areas, the previous government in the State filled up a few vacancies for the post of village assistant.
Following this, the total strength of village assistants stood at 33. This number of VAs here subsequently went up to 34. However, official sources claimed that in some cases, assistants were appointed to villages without human habitations!
A senior VAO on condition of anonymity revealed that such “blind” appointments have been made for villages like Vasambadi, Chinnamanoor and Aranmanaikaddu.
Though on paper these areas were shown as villages, in reality, the ‘villages’ turned out to be coffee estates.
The revenue from such ‘villages,’ which apparently measured just 20 to 30 acres, by way of kandhayam (land revenue) would hardly be less than `100.
However, the monthly pay for the village assistants put in charge of these areas reportedly ranged between `5,000 to `8,000.
According to tribal activist K Gunasekaran, some erstwhile tribal villages vanished over time and became part of these estates
However, such villages continued to figure as villages on revenue records, Gunasekaran said, while adding that though some have even “vanished, their vestiges remain.”