For almost three weeks, the Ekalavya Model Residential School for Indian tribals at Pookode in Wayanad became home to 20 tribal families from Anamala, an uphill area that was sealed off by the government, following landslides in the region on August 8. The high school building, where the residents are put up, is equipped with basic necessities. Desks are turned into makeshift beds, ropes hang across the classroom to dry clothes and toilets at the school have turned into bathrooms. Local bodies and private groups have provided them with bedsheets, blankets pillows, clothes, water and biscuits.
"We reached here (the camp) on August 9. Last week, seven families have moved out of this camp. They were allotted land to set up their tents on a parcel of land owned by Navodaya Vidyalaya. The rest of us are waiting to be assigned land," said Bindu (39), who lives in the camp.
All 20 families, who had moved to the Pookode relief camp on August 9, were long-time residents of Anamala, near Lakkidi, in Wayanad.
Recounting their shift to the camp, Bindu said, "We were given this land as part of a dairy project by the Department of Animal Husbandry. We worked on this project. On August 8, the landslides occurred during the night, cutting off access to Anamala from other areas. We placed our elderly on chairs and moved them to safer locations. Most of our houses have been destroyed and some of us were in the process of building new houses in the colony."
The landslide forced the tribal community to bid farewell to their homes forever, as the prospects of going back are close to nil.
"The colony is still cut off from the mainland as mud and rocks have not been cleared. Some of us wanted to go back and bring back some basic items such as vessels and clothes, but the Collectorate has issued an order, prohibiting us from going back as it is dangerous. The Revenue Department has even promised us a few cents of land nearby to set up new houses after we leave the camp," Bindu's mother, Leela (60) told TNM.
However, until a new land is assigned, the relief camp remains home and residents try to co-exist peacefully.
"Proper beds have been provided to the bedridden and we have placed them near the entrance of the school. All of us share five or six bathrooms in the school. We dispose of the food and other waste that we generate in deep pits dug inside the compound. The food was being provided by Navodaya school until today August 27. We will manage with tea, bread and biscuits that we already have in stock. Hopefully, they will shift us from here soon. Until then, we are adjusting and trying to live together happily," Bindu added.
This article has been produced in partnership with Oxfam India. In the last 10 years, Oxfam India has delivered over 36 impactful humanitarian responses in India. Oxfam India is providing critical relief to the affected families and communities in Kerala: clean drinking water, sanitation, and shelter kits. Click here to help #RebuildKerala.