Thirty-eight tribespeople had left their homes in the Idamalayar forest in June due to dire living conditions. They are now being asked to leave their shelter without being provided any other arrangements.

Araikapu residents
news Housing Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - 18:21

The 12 families that had left their homes located in the treacherous terrains of the Idamalayar reserve forest in Kerala are facing the prospect of losing their homes for the second time in four months. This time, the Tribal Department of the Kerala government has evicted the families from the Idamalayar tribal hostel, where the families were seeking temporary shelter, as schools are set to reopen on November 1.

In June this year, 38 tribespeople, including children, who were living in the Araikap colony, located in the Idamalayar reserve forest, left their homes due to the poor and unsafe living conditions in the colony. The conditions were so difficult that access to a hospital was over 80 kilometres in Thrissur's Chalakudy, after walking on foot through treacherous terrains for over six hours. With no health care facilities, multiple people, including infants, lost their lives. Fed up of living in a place with no roads, no schools, no hospitals or even a shop, in June the families left their colony in protest against the inaction of government officials in providing them a proper place to live.

Read TNM's ground report on the issue: Why these tribal families in Kerala left their homes to become ‘homeless’

After moving out of the colony, though the families tried to set up huts and settle near Vaishali Guha region, a place 28 kilometres away from Araikkap which is accessible by road, they were evicted by Forest Department officials in Ernakulam district. The families were moved into the Idamalayar tribal hostel with a promise of proper rehabilitation, but the government has now issued notice to the people, asking them to evict their temporary shelter.

In the notice issued by the Tribal Department, officials have asked the families to leave the tribal hostel, where they are residing, as schools are set to reopen on November 1. The tribal hostel is part of the Idamalayar tribal school.

However, the families stated that they are not ready to move out as the government has not provided the promised rehabilitation.

"The government wants the families to go back to Araikap. But the residents are not ready to go. They have had enough. When the families tried to set up tents near Vaishali Guha (said to be a place where ancestors of the community lived), the government did not allow that and they brought them to this hostel. Now in the name of the school reopening, the government is trying to evict the people without providing them proper rehabilitation," says Chithra Nilambur, a tribal activist working closely with the residents.

Though people expressed to officials that they are ready to be rehabilitated in any other forest regions and not particularly Vaishali Guha, the government is yet to take action.

Meanwhile, officials in the tribal department told TNM that the government believes that the families should go back to Araikap. "There will not be a forceful eviction. But they have to move away in order for the children to resume their classes as schools reopen in November. Tribal department cannot take a final decision in the matter. The government has to," said Anil Kumar, Tribal Development Officer in Ernakulam district.

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