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Dharmapuri tribals relent after official’s assurance on roads, call off poll boycott after four hours

Explaining their demands, Pasuvaraj, a graduate from Allakattu, said that the residents were forced to walk 11-15 kilometres to avail of basic services including healthcare, and education.

Published: 07th April 2021 10:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th April 2021 11:26 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

DHARMAPURI: Residents of Kottur, Eriyur, and Allakattu hamlets threatened to boycott the Assembly election on Tuesday morning as their primary demand for roads had not been fulfilled by any elected representative since Independence.

However, two of the three hamlets relented after Pennagaram Returning Officer signed a letter promising to fulfil a list of five demands after the election.

The move comes after polling stations were set up in Eriyur and Kottur to make voting easier for the residents. The election officials used donkeys to transport the EVMs and VVPATs to the remote tribal hamlets.

On Tuesday morning, after residents failed to show up for polling, election officials figured out that the residents had boycotted the polls. According to sources, Kottur residents also reportedly sent out the booth agents stationed in their village.

Explaining their demands, Pasuvaraj, a graduate from Allakattu, said that the residents were forced to walk 11-15 kilometres to avail of basic services including healthcare, and education.

"No elected representative has ever visited our village; so, why should we cast our votes?" he asked.

Pennagaram Returning Officer Thanikachalam told TNIE that the residents staged the protest despite officials assuring them ahead of the polls that their demands would be met.

"The Central government's approval is required to lay the roads within the reserved forest. Moreover, these villages require three separate roads along different routes. At present, the road project is pending and will soon be approved," he explained.

Following the announcement on the poll boycott, the election officials held talks with the residents.

Nearly five hours later, residents of Allakattu and Eriyur started voting after Pennagaram Returning officer Thanikachalam, BDO Anandhan and the Forest Ranger signed a letter promising that a five-point demand, including the construction of separate roads to the three hamlets would be fulfilled soon.

The four other demands are providing employment under the MNREGS, allowing the use of tractors for farming, and use of earth-movers for levelling the terrain, and providing water supply under the Hogenakkal Integrated Drinking Water Project to the villages.

While residents of Allakattu and Eriyur agreed to vote following the assurance, Kottur tribals stayed firm in their decision to boycott the polls. Out of 329 votes in Kottur hamlet, only two had cast their votes on Tuesday.



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