B D’COSTA | NT
Nestled in the jungles of Cotigao wildlife sanctuary is the tribal twin hamlet of Tirval-Marle under Poinguinim panchayat. Marle is located in the forested area around 15 kms from Chaudi town of Canacona and a few kilometres away from the bordering state of Karnataka. The hamlet consists of around 80 houses with 400 inhabitants.
This tribal village, not known to many, had made headlines for its inhabitants boycotting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections demanding a motorable road through the forest area.
The plea for a proper asphalted road had fallen on deaf ears for years, and with no other option left, the villagers collectively shook the entire system with their novel way of declaring that they will boycott all future elections till their demand was met.
However, nothing has changed for this hamlet after the Lok Sabha elections. The rocky road, which is in summer, has turned into a pool of muddy water in heavy rains.
Since Marle comes under the forest area there has been no development here but what is upsetting the villagers is that other wards besides Nadke and Cotigao, which are under the forest area, have motorable roads, underground cabling; and they question as to why only they are being deprived of the basic amenities.
Uprooting of trees, touching of wires against tree branches lead to short circuits and snapping of wires, leaving the area without electricity for days.
“Under the tribal plan, we are entitled to underground power cabling project but nothing has reached us till date,” said Vomo Gaonkar, a local.
In terms of development, there is a government primary school with one permanent teacher and another teacher who visits the school twice a week.
The village also has a small shop which caters to few basic needs of the people. Students, who want to pursue high school studies, have to go to Amone where schooling is till class VII or Poinguinim to finish high school.
“The school bus halts at 7.30 am on Tirval road as the road ahead is not accessible. Students from Marle have to walk around 5 kms to reach the bus stop. They have to depart early from their homes and the children are always in fear as they move through dense forest to reach the bus stop,” said a woman.
The nearest market is Poinguinim but most essential commodities have to be purchased from Chaudi which is located around 15 kms away.
With a single KTC bus plying only once a day, travelling is restricted for Marle locals. They have to come to Chinchevoll, a ward 8 kms away either on foot or two-wheeler to collect their ration as and when available.
The cut-off factor of Marle-Tirval also deprives the locals of healthcare facilities.
The only government health centre for them is at Cotigao where only a nurse is available and in case of serious illness they have to go to Canacona health centre in Chaudi.
Speaking to this correspondent, Kust Babu Gaonkar stated that medical arrangements are done well ahead during pregnancies but in times of other emergencies such as snake bite or animal attack they are helpless.
Villagers have been practicing agriculture in Marle-Tirval since decades. Mainly rice is cultivated besides other vegetables.
“Our women can sell the extra produce but it is not possible in the inaccessible conditions we live. We are living in complete harmony with nature,” said an elderly villager Molu Ram Gaonkar.
“Even though our fields are sometimes destroyed by peacocks and bison we do not kill them. We follow all the rules laid down by the forest department. Since life was dependent mainly on forest produce the older generation did not move out, but now the situation has changed and our younger generation need to move out for education and work,” he added.
With no tarred road, no proper transport, poor power supply and no health facilities, the hamlet is cut-off civilisation.
Hopes had rekindled when they had boycotted the elections, but after the election they are left disappointed once again.
The sole demand of the villagers is better accessibility.
“A tarred road is all we want which will lessen our commuting woes. All villagers of Marle-Tirval dream of a better future for their younger generation. Despite boycotting the elections, our pleas went unheard,” said a villager.
With the local MLA Isidore Fernandes moving from the opposition to the ruling BJP, the villagers now hope that he will fulfil their demands.