Taking development to Edamalakkudy

Walking the talk on inclusive development, the Left government in Kerala is taking development to the tribal hinterland of Kerala. Edamalakkudy in Idukki is the sole tribal village panchayat in Kerala. The tribes there belong to the Muthuvan gothra. The area has known no development mainly because no roads lead to this place where 2400 people live in some 26 settlements known as a kudi. Hence, they lack other basic amenities like health centre, electricity, telecom facilities as well. The Kerala government is planning for a comprehensive development project to improve the lives of the residents there.

The 26 kudis (settlements) in Edamalakkudy are spread inside the deep forest with no road access. Even the closest kudis are separated by many kilometers. The people of Edamalakkudy have to travel great distances even for official needs. The panchayat office which is now several kilometers away from the village will be relocated to the area. The community hall in the panchayat will house it. New buildings that are suitable will be constructed in Edamalakkudy using prevalent existing models. A special group under the leadership of Public Works Department will be organised. They will prepare a separate schedule of rates for local requirements. To improve travel conditions in the panchayat two jeeps will be provided for local commute. The forest department will operate this service at minimal rates set by the government.

To improve the health facilities in Edamalakkudy a primary health centre will be built. This has been a long standing demand of the local people. The youth among the tribes in Edamalakkudy, especially the women will be trained to become health workers. Every kudi will have one such worker and volunteers for this program will be provided with an intense three months training by the health department. For the time being, two buildings belonging to the forest department will be used as a facility for training. Good and hygienic valayamapuras (Menstrual homes) for the women in the panchayat will be designed and built after discussions with the tribal families based on their needs.

The construction of all anganwadis would be completed. Only women from the local tribal population will be employed there. All non-local workers who are currently working there will be transferred to other locations. The PDS (Public Distribution System) will prepare a package consisting of supplies that are traditional to the place and that which are acceptable to the population. A warehouse will also be constructed to efficiently store these items.

The existing lower primary school there will be modernised and upgraded to provide classes up to 7th standard. A temporary arrangement will be put in place till this is realised. The workforce shortage can be addressed by training the locals who have completed 10th standard. Children of the village, from willing families, who want to pursue quality schooling outside are free to do that. A hostel will also be started in Edamalakkudy, which will be supervised by a committee consisting of locals and outside experts.

Government is also planning to bring electricity to Edamalakkudy. Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) will focus on decentralised power generation and distribution through micro-hydel projects. Jalanidhi will implement a water supply scheme by tapping water from the springs and delivering it to the kudi with the help of gravity.

Kerala forest ministry would declare the communal rights of the tribes in Edamalakkudy. A market for their non-timber forest produce they collect from forest will be created with a joint effort from the Kerala SC/ST department and the forest department. Organic farming will also be encouraged in this area. Non-local variants will not be allowed in cardamom farming.

The universal housing project of the Kerala government, LIFE mission, will be implemented here on a priority basis. Detailed deliberations between the local tribal population and the experts will identify materials and designs locally available and useful for the purpose.

Devikulam Subcollector will be appointed as the special officer for coordinating these development activities in Edamalakkudy.