Destroyed by nature, unseen by authorities The plight of a tribal settlement

When the cyclone Vardah made landfall in Chennai, with a destructive wind speed of more than 100 miles per hour, it had uprooted trees, brought down houses and even blew away some vehicles. This damage was well reported from within Chennai. What most people have missed though, was the damage done to rural Tamil Nadu, especially underprivileged rural Tamil Nadu.

There is a small settlement of indigenous Irular Tribes, beside Vembedu in Uthukottai taluk of Tiruvallur district. The settlement houses no more than 50 families and is 52 kilometres away from Chennai and two kilometres away from the nearest village, Vembedu.

Unlike the village of Vembedu which has pucca houses, roads, power lines, a public health center and a water tank.

The settlement still has houses with thatched roofs. One power line, that powers street lights which were put in when the local MP visited the last time, mud houses with thatched roofs, and a contaminated watering hole.

From October to December heavy rains are a common occurrence in Tamil Nadu. The large part of the Irulars have managed to deal with incessant rains and leaky roofs. This time it was different.

Even after three weeks, one can still hear the trauma in their tones. The thatched roofs were blown away and the houses stood bare and uninhabitable. The villagers are scrambling to gather enough people to rebuild their houses

In this havoc, Lakshmi, who is a resident of the village, was in labour under one of these roofs, which threatened to give away any minute.

She gave birth to a girl in darkness, helped by her neighbours and friends as the wind and the rain destroyed the village outside.

“We called an ambulance, but by the time it arrived she had already delivered the baby,” Said a friend of Lakshmi.

The nearest health centre is five kilometres away. And the one in Vembedu has no ambulance services. The locals end up walking, or take the lone bus route on which plies one bus at 12 in the noon.

Now, more than three weeks after the cyclone, even the power lines which light the streets, leaving the houses in the dark, are still not repaired. they still do not have electricity, or drinking water. During the cyclone, the water tankers’ pipes were busted. Now they use a small muddy pond to fetch water.

However, Vembedu, a Reddiyar settlement which is two Kilometres away from the Irular settlement, has received help from the government and have regained their power and drinking water withing four days.

On the other hand, The Irular tribe is still living in dark and drinking water from a contaminated waterhole.


Tadi Vidura

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