Andhra’s ‘Mountain Men and Women’ make own road

VISAKHAPATNAM: A group of tribals joined hands to lay a ghat road to connect their remote hamlets in Visakhapatnam’s agency areas, after years of neglect and apathy from the state government.
Tribals of nine villages pooled locally available material and laboured for nearly three weeks to complete the 7km-long kutcha road, which provides vital connectivity to the otherwise inaccessible habitations in the Eastern Ghats. Cut-off from the nearest panchayat headquarters by almost 15km, 250 families comprising 1,500 tribals from these nine hamlets had no choice but to lay the road themselves, as no official help was forthcoming despite numerous pleas for a road.

The tribals have no access to electricity and medical services; witnesses said there have been cases of pregnant women being carried down to the nearest health centre.

The project took off through the initiative of four tribal youths. “Four of us took upon ourselves the task of motivating the hill-top residents in all the nine hamlets. We are happy that our efforts are finally paying off,” Paduvula Buchanna, one of the quartet, said.

The tribals started work on January 23 and completed a 7km-long kutcha road in about three weeks. They took turns, with a team of hundred working daily at an average of almost 2.5km a day. This task has also brought together three tribal communities which are otherwise elusive . The three groups are Muka Doras, Konda Doras, and Kondus .

The state government had sanctioned Rs 40 lakh for the road during 2018-2019 under the NREGS grant. DK Balaji, project director of Integrated Tribal Development Agency, said the road project will be brought under NREGS and the tribals involved in the work would be paid for their labour.

“This is a tremendous effort, but this pathway will not be enough. These mud roads will be washed away during the rainy season; we are planning to go in for full-fledged metal road,” Balaji said.

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