Tribal chief shifted to hospital after 3 days of hunger strike demanding road to settlement colony in Idukki

A medical officer inspecting the health condition of Ooru Moopan Ajayan on Sunday noon. Photo: Special Arrangement

Idukki: The ‘ooru moopan’(chief) of the Ambedkar Tribal Settlement Colony at Vanchivayal, situated inside Periyar Tiger Reserve near Vallakadavu in Vadiperiyar grama panchayat, was shifted to the Government Heath Centre after his blood sugar levels dropped drastically following an indefinite hunger strike demanding a 4.2 km concrete road to the colony from the Vallakadavu forest check post.

Moopan Ajayan T launched his hunger strike on February 2. He erected a shed near the colony, which houses 84 families, and began his fast for a proper road from their colony to Vallakadavu, which has been a demand of the residents for several years.

“The present road, which is almost three metres wide, has been paved with soling stones and is not tarred or concreted. Vehicles like jeeps, autorickshaws and school buses take over 30 minutes to reach Vallakadavu. With the stones coming out, it has become a burdensome task for vehicles to ply on this forest road,” said Balachandran S, a Schedule Tribe promoter and resident of the colony.

According to Balachandran, the tribal colony was set up 87 years ago and has 306 people residing there at present. The unfinished road is a nightmare for the residents during medical emergencies. He said the panchayat has not taken up the project to concrete the road owing to a lack of funds.

“Almost all residents of the colony are either government employees or working as watchers employed with the forest department. A few families are into farming. A minibus transporting school children is also plying on this road and considering the abysmal condition of this forest path, we are very concerned about the children’s safety as well,” Moopan Ajayan said.

The unfinished forest road connecting Vallakadavu and the tribal colony. Photo: Special Arrangement

No funds for the road this FY’
According to officials of Vandiperiyar panchayat, considering the longstanding demand of the colony residents, the Public Works Department prepared an estimate of Rs 3.26 cr for the road project and the district-level tribal committee, headed by the Collector, approved it.

“As the forest department did not allow the use of bitumen on this road, a concrete road is the only option. The estimate for the road is so high the panchayat does not have enough funds for such a project. For tribal projects, we receive funds up to Rs 20 lakh,” said Vandiperiyar panchayat president K M Usha and former Peermade block panchayat president P M Noushad.

Ooru Moopam Ajayan with residents of the Ambedkar Settlement Colony during the fast demanding a concrete road. Photo: Special Arrangement

They met Minister K Radhakrishnan and the proposal for the road was under consideration by the state infrastructure working group. “The latest we know about it is that due to a severe financial crunch, funds will be allocated only in the upcoming financial year. However, for the Ambedkar Tribal Settlement Colony, funds of Rs 1 crore have been sanctioned by the tribal department and we have set up different committees, which are mandatory for implementing the works, with persons including Ooru Moopan,” they added.

Residents of the colony said that both panchayat and tribal officers have spoken to the moopan who was shifted to the health center by Sunday noon and he hopefully would soon call off the fast considering his health condition.

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