THENI: Forty years and counting, they have been waiting for a road, but it is still a non-starter. Sakulathumettu in Kerala is just 11 kilometres away from Devaram of Tamil Nadu, but the people have to take a detour of around 70 kilometres via Cumbum mettu or Bodi mettu to cross the border due to the lack of road connecting the two places.
Sources said over 2,000 agriculture labourers from TN, working in Udumbansolai, Nedumkandam, Vandiperiyar, Beermedu, Munnaru estates in Kerala, are at the receiving end as they have to spend nearly five hours travelling daily in jeeps, leading to waste of money, time and energy. "The labourers apart, trade between the two states are also being affected. Fruits and other agricultural products from Theni in Tamil Nadu are being transported to Kerala regularly," they said.
Following the proposal for a road connecting T Mettupatti near Devaram and Sakulathumettu in Kerala by the Department of Public works, Highways and Minor Ports of Tamil Nadu, a foundation stone was laid in 1981 for it during the tenure of the then Chief Minister MG Ramachandran. However, the work never started.
Speaking to TNIE, an office-bearer of the Pannaipuram Farmers Association, R Murugandham, said farmers of Theni also own Patta land in the Sakulathumettu area.
"Due to the lack of roads, most of them are facing challenges in carrying out agriculture. Though various farmer associations have time and again raised the demand, the officials are turning a blind eye. The road features in the election promises of both DMK and AIADMK. But it never materialised. If the road is laid, it would help not only the people of Devaram but also the people of both states," he said.
Devaram comes under Bodinayakanur, the assembly constituency of AIADMK's O Panneerselvam. Trader and office bearer of Devaram Traders Association, Vellaichamy, said a few years ago, Panneerselvam and Theni MP P Ravindranath Kumar visited the area and assured to lay the road.
"The last four kilometres of the proposed T Mettuppatti-Sakulathumettu stretch comes under the jurisdiction of the forest department. They are denying permission for the road, citing threats to animals in the area. A few years ago, a few of us, traders, joined hands and laid a road by spending from our own pocket and started operating jeeps. But after coming to know about this, the forest officials prevented us our move," he said, adding landslides are common in the present Cumbum mettu - Bodi mettu stretch, but its chances are very less on T. Mettupatti - Sakulathumettu stretch.
In his response, an official from the district administration, who preferred anonymity, said the Department of Public works, Highways and Minor Ports have yet to get clearance from the forest department for the stretch. TNIE could not reach Minister for Co-operation I Periyasamy, who is in charge of the Theni district, for his response.