Except for electricity and one water pump, Keshavarao Kunta is deprived of all the basic facilities, including a road and a school.

Even after 50 years this Adivasi hamlet in Telangana does not have road or school
news Infrastructure Friday, May 25, 2018 - 16:37

Five-year-old Arjun will be enrolled in primary school this July. While his parents, belonging to the Adivasi community Kolam, are glad that their son will be getting an education, their happiness comes at a cost – they have to leave their adored son under the care of his grandparents.

This sad tale is true not of Arjun’s family alone, but of the 20 Adivasi families living in Keshavarao Kunta in Adilabad district of Telangana. This Adivasi village and other hamlets surrounding it have been deprived of all the basic resources like a road and a primary school, as they are located deep inside the forest. Though the village has been in existence for more than 50 years, only recently did the authorities sanction a water pump for the village.

The Adivasi families who want to send their children to school have only two choices: leave them under the care of relatives, if any, in towns that have a school or enrol them in a government hostel.

Luckily, Arjun’s grandparents reside in a town and are willing to take care of him while he does his schooling. However, Arjun’s parents are not too happy about it. They worry that raising their naughty son would take a toll on the old couple’s health.

A helpless Kumra Sone Rao, who is unwilling to separate from his son, shares, “My parents are very old. I am supposed to take care of them, but as I have my own family and my livelihood depends on agriculture, I am settled in Keshavarao Kunta. They don’t want to live here and suffer like the rest of us. So they are in a town which has all the facilities. I am in a helpless situation. This year my son should be enrolled in school and we had no choice but to ask my parents if they can take care of him until he finishes his primary school.”

He adds, “I do not wish to cause them any trouble, but since there is no school here, I am forced to send him there.”

Government apathy?

The residents of Keshavarao Kunta have made numerous appeals and submitted representations for at least a primary school to be opened in the village, so that their children can go to school and be raised in their own care. However, these appeals have remained unheard.

Pointing to his kids who are playing, Bheemrao, another villager and father of three, says, “These kids are playing now, but when school starts we won’t be able to see them.”

The village’s tribal chieftain Venkati, whose grandfather was the first one to settle in Keshavarao Kunta, says, “It has been 50 years since this small settlement expanded into a village. But it continues to remain the same as it was earlier, except for electricity.”

Though the government has not been paying heed to their plight, the villagers of Keshavarao Kunta have been relentless in their struggle to achieve basic amenities for their village.

Venkati and other villagers submitted a representation to the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) authorities again in December 2017 with three major demands: provide safe drinking water, lay roads and build a primary school in the vicinity.

Out of these three demands, the authorities fulfilled the demand to provide safe drinking water. The fight for the other amenities continue. For several decades, the villagers have continued to rely on the small well in the forest, which fortunately never dried up. However, the villagers were worried that the well might dry up due to the swelling population and hence made a demand for a drinking water pump.

About the hamlet

Keshavarao Kunta, which is surrounded by forest, falls under the Salevadu gram panchayat of Utnoor mandal. The village was named after Venkati’s grandfather, Keshavarao, who was the first to settle in the hamlet. Gradually Adivasis from nearby areas shifted to agriculture and settled down in the area.

“Initially there were only 3-4 families in the forest. But several others moved in here to make a livelihood through farming,” shares Sone Rao.

The village was electrified about 20 years ago. However, besides that no other development has taken place.

Struggle for hand pump

Although there are around 60 people in the village, the entire village had been relying on a small well in the village.

The villagers had made several appeals and written numerous petitions asking the authorities to dig a borewell to create an alternate water source as the village was expanding. After a long struggle, the authorities set up a hand pump just a few days ago.

A relieved Venkati says, “We had been demanding a water pump for a long time. Earlier we were few in number and we could manage with the well. But the population has been swelling, so it had become a dire need.”

However, the villagers consider it only a partial success as their two other demands – road and primary school – are yet to be fulfilled by the government.

The Adivasis live precarious lives. With no roads, they rely on the hope that nobody has a medical emergency.

“Before someone’s health worsens, we take them to the hospital. We don’t wait until the last moment. Even in the case of pregnancies, we don’t take any chances. Most often we move the pregnant woman to some acquaintance or relative’s house, which has access to a hospital,” Sone Rao shares.

But this gamble always doesn’t pay off. “A couple of elders died on the way while we were taking them to hospital on a bullock cart,” Sone Rao says.

Demand for road

The village doesn’t have any transportation because of the lack of roads. Share autos are available, but they come only occasionally. They make their final stop at Valgonda and don’t proceed further. So, the villagers are forced to walk some 2-3 km on the kacha road through the forest.

Sharing their plight, Bheemrao says, “Getting our provisions in the first week of the month is a huge task. All the villagers take one bullock cart and get the ration for the entire village. Except for bullock carts, no other transport can take us to the nearby town. We badly need roads.”

It is not just the villagers of Keshavarao Kunta who have been making these demands; the people in the neighbouring hamlet of Vadgalpur (B) also have the same plea.

The authorities have promised the village a school and also laying of a tar road. But they say that laying roads inside the forest involves a lot of hassle as the forest department was objecting to it.

“The forest department will not give permission for laying roads since the area is deep inside the forest. Getting permission isn’t easy. But we will work it out,” says Revenue Development Officer of Utnoor Jagadeeshwar Reddy.

 

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