B D’COSTA | NT
Canacona: Gaondongrem, a village about 20 kms from the commercial town of Canacona is famous all over Goa for the chillies grown. However, the village is equally well-known for the hardships the villagers face even though the residents are amongst the first inhabitants of Goa.
This undeveloped village with a population of about 5,300, out of which more than 90 per cent belong to Schedule Tribes, is crying for infrastructural works and utilisation of funds from tribal sub-plan that are left unspent.
Except for underground electrical cabling, a playground and a water dam at Gavanem, the village lacks better and broader roads, potable water supply together and basic infrastructure with the demands fallen on deaf ears, villagers allege.
The villagers have survived since centuries cultivating rice on top of the mountains. However in recent years, farming of cash crop has been done in some agricultural area. They include cashew, sugarcane and other horticultural crops bringing in much needed cash into the villagers’ pockets. But due to unavailability of water irrigation, most of the agricultural land remains fallow and villagers lose out on employment except during a few months during rains and during cashew harvesting season.
This has led to unemployment among the villagers, who idle away, doing just nothing gainful leading to frequent fights and tensions in the families, said an elderly person from the village.
The village hosts many beautiful and enchanting waterfalls which come alive during monsoon. Picnickers from Goa as well as northern Karnataka make a beeline with the footfalls running into thousands on weekends.
But with no eateries and other basic tourism infrastructure facilities, the visitors bring along with them all the essentials and locals lose out on sources of livelihood.
Many youth idle away their time by gambling using cards at some tea shops dotting the village. People of Gaondongrem, which derives its name from the fact it is located on the mountains, now faces many challenges with the challenge to make ends meet being main issue, said Kust Gaonkar, deputy sarpanch of the village.
He goes on to add that amongst other issues, the village roads need to be tarred, government schools need repair and bridges need to be constructed adding, “With the help of our MLA Isidore Fernandes, we have got some works tendered while some are at various other stages.”
The village also faces problems due to poor mobile connectivity with the only tower of the state-run mobile network service provider BSNL installed near the panchayat house.
Elders of the village complain that with poor or no connectivity the main issue faced by them is they struggle to contact family members in case of medical and other types of emergencies.
Tolu Gaonkar, a resident of Gaondongrem highlighting the need for petrol pump as they presently are forced to travel over 30 kms for refill of petrol and every time, they lose 2 to 6 litres of fuel.
Villagers also desire a well-equipped library as most parents are uneducated and they want their children not to lag behind. “Our children should be well informed and it will also help them to compete with students from urban areas which have better education facilities,” said Ulhas, a resident of the village.
Construction of a water reservoir in the village had come as a relief for the residents of the village which faces acute water scarcity during summer months. But with not yet released, it has become a white elephant and villagers forced to rely on tankers supplying water.
Former sarpanch Ashok Velip said that politicians are using them for their self gains adding, “Politicians promise the heaven during the time of elections and deliver nothing once elected. Except for the formation of self-help groups, nothing has been done to develop the villagers.”
“Our youth need jobs and without employment, they fall prey to vices. Politicians and elected representatives have to have an action plan to provide employment to our jobless youth otherwise the villagers will die a slow death,” warned