More than a fortnight after a landslide hurtled down the Pettimudi hills at Rajamala in Munnar, in Idukki district, killing dozens of people and trapping scores of tea estate workers, the rain disaster continues to take a toll on the lives of people.
A BSNL tower at Nalla Thanni Tea Estate had collapsed a day before the tragedy struck earlier this month, cutting off hundreds of people. Around 200 children in eight schools in the locality have not been able to attend their online classes.
“Some of them walk 4-6 km to reach a place where they get the network to download lessons on WhatsApp. The rest are completely excluded from studies,” says Sojan, a teacher at Fatima Mata High School, Chinnakkanal.
The BSNL mobile tower located in Kallar division of Nalla Thanni Estate had collapsed on August 6, a day before the landslide. That was the day Pettimudi recorded extremely heavy rainfall of above 61 cm. Days later, the broken tower has not been repaired/replaced, cutting off a large part of a locality without contact.
“Even hospital services are disrupted,” says Rajendran who works with KDHP’s telecom section. The people, mostly plantation workers, depend on the three dispensaries. Only landlines in hospitals are functional. “The hospital staff are unable to contact the patients, creating a lot of practical problems in the time of COVID-19,” says Rajendran.
“More than 40 students in my school have lost touch with us,” says Sr Rosily, Headmistress of Little Flower School. “When we organised a virtual PTA meeting to discuss the problem, only some parents managed to attend it,” she said. Teachers are helpless as it is not possible for them to reach out to those who have been left out of online classes.
“There are many migrant workers from Jharkhand who are estate employees. Their children also study in various schools in and around Munnar,” says Sojan. Many like him say this would have never happened had the incident taken place in the plains. “Repairing a mobile phone tower, after all, can be a few hours’ job,” said one of them.
Meanwhile, the search is on in Pettimudi to find more bodies buried under the rubble. The authorities are still assessing the extent of damage, sources said. Finding the next of kin of the victims and finalising the compensation amount are yet to be ascertained.