DHARMAPURI: It’s going to be one year since the Seshachalam encounter, when the Andhra Pradesh Police killed 20 woodcutters from Tamil Nadu. Of the 20 who died in the April 7 encounter, seven were from the tribal hamlets in Dharmapuri district.
In the district, red sanders smuggling is not a new thing. Lack of employment opportunities in their region have been forcing them into it, even after the incident. There are no proper water, road, school and hospital facilities in the area.
Chitteri panchayat in Harur constituency has 64 tribal hamlets coming under Pappireddipatti taluk. Of them, Arasanatham, Kalasapadi, Karukkampatti and five others are located on top of Chitteri hill, some 80 km from Dharmapuri.
Following the encounter death of seven persons in district, the state government had provided jobs to their family members. But that was not enough. Express visited the village recently and found the condition appalling.
Shanmugam (22), son of Laxmanan and Unnamalai of Arasanatham village, was pursuing his B Sc Maths course in a private college at Salem. His ambition was to become a teacher and to help poor students. On April 7 last year, he heard the news of his father’s death in Andhra Pradesh. After the incident, Shanmugam dropped out of college and got the job of a noon meal organiser provided by the state government at a Panchayat Union Primary School in Menasi.
Now his friends have completed their degree and a few are pursuing postgraduation, while some others are teachers in nearby schools. “Out of the `6,000 I earn, I am spending over `3, 000 for petrol a month for getting to my place of work from my home. How will we survive with the remaining amount?” he said.
Shanmugam has a younger sister Sangeetha, who is married to Prabhu, son of Harikrishnan (55), in the same village. Harikrishnan also died in the encounter. By way of compensation, Sangeetha got the job of a cook at the Panchayat Union Primary School near Bommidi for `3,500. But the family is still struggling to live a decent life.
Laxmanan (25), son of Theerthagiri and Kuppayi, died in the encounter and after a few months, a heart-broken Theerthagiri also died. Kuppayi is living with her elder son and daughter.
Kuppayi rued that the government had allocated a house under the Tamil Nadu Green House Project, but funds for constructing the house were not properly released by the District Rural Development Agency Department and banks, leaving her in the lurch.
She makes a living by selling goats. She does not even know anything about the free milch cows and goats scheme of the State government.
Harur CPI (M) MLA Dillibabu said that in the aftermath of the encounter, schemes worth `41.62 crore for the tribals were conceivedwith the participation of the villagers, revenue department and forest department and the proposal sent to the State government for approval. But it has been pending since September last year.
When contacted, CPI state secretary Mutharasan said he was not blaming the state government for not creating employment opportunities in the region.
Despite several attempts, Dharmapuri MP Anbumani Ramadoss did not answer to the calls and the tribals rued that he had never visited them.
Kranthi Chaitanya, State vice- president of the Civil Liberties Committee, told Express that he was handling a case related to the compensation to the AP encounter victims’ families, but the High Court of Andhra Pradesh Chief Justice has been delaying the case.
He hoped that releif would be provided within a few months.
Members of the AP encounter victims’ families were asked by some activist groups to go to Tiruvannamalai and pay tribute to the deceased.