When Kerala goes on election fervour, the people of Pettimudi in Munnar are uncertain about casting their votes in the upcoming local body polls. After the massive landslide in August that claimed 66 lives and four bodies weren’t recovered, life has not been back to normal in this hilly village in the Western Ghats.
The rest of the villagers in the Pettimudi division of Neymakkad estate which is part of the Kannan Devan Hill Plantations (KDHP) have been shifted to various other locations in and around Munnar. Pettimudi division is part of the Rajamala ward in Munnar grama panchayat in Idukki district.
Around 122 people have been shifted from this place. However, their vote remains in the same place and those who want to exercise their franchise have to travel all the way back to Rajamala. Travelling to their new locations and meeting the voters is the challenge that the candidates are facing.
“Many of them are shifted to locations quite far. We have to travel 30 to 35 kilometres to meet each one of them. However, I have been trying to meet everyone in person and to ensure the votes” says Gandhi, the candidate being fielded by the LDF in the Rajamala ward.
He told The Federal that vehicles would be arranged for the voters to reach the polling booth on the day. Gandhi, a CPI worker and state council member of the AITUC, is confident that the voters would turn up on the day of polling [It is a three-phase poll: December 8, 10 and 14). He hopes that he will be able to make changes in the lives of the people who have survived a disaster.
On the other hand, Dinakaran, the UDF candidate, is a plantation labourer who is a migrant from Tamil Nadu. “My relatives and friends are among those who were taken by the landslide,” he said.
He also travels to the other divisions of Neymakkad estate to meet the voters in person. He too hopes, despite having faced a disaster, people would not give away their voting rights and will take part in the election.
According to sources, around 100 voters have returned to Tamil Nadu after the flood and landslide. Covid has worsened the situation and a few more have gone back to Tamil Nadu. “I have contacted a few who went back to Tirunelveli and Palakkad. I hope that they would come back before polling,” says Gandhi.
The plantation labourers in Pettimudi are yet to come out of the shock and grief of the August 6 night that claimed the lives of 66 villagers. Pettimudi had massive and relentless rainfall over a week before the landslide.
Though the place was not marked in the map of the landslide-prone areas in the High Range, the continuous heavy rainfall and the sloppy landscape caused the disaster, according to experts. Also, a government-formed committee found that the KDHP administration failed in providing information and starting rescue operations on time.