‘I have not seen a party candidate even once’

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Voter apathy may be common among the urban middle class across India. But the apathy of politicians is what is glaring in the tribal haadis of the Nagarahole National Park.

Scattered over different hamlets or haadis, life goes on as usual for tribal communities, both in the settlements on the fringes of the national park and the nearly 56 haadis inside the forest.

Neither the candidates nor party workers have bothered to reach out to these communities. However, officials have conducted an awareness drive in tribal hamlets to ensure that they exercise their franchise. An election awareness drive banner was seen at Kollangere, a tribal hamlet inside the national park.

Located about 30 km from Hunsur, Kollangere has about 25 to 30 families living without basic amenities. Though water is supplied through borewell, it dries up during summer and power supply is a rarity. Majority of them are either Jenu Kurubas, Kadu Kurubas or from the Yerawa community.

“I have voted in elections for years but have not seen the candidates or party leaders even once,” said Lakshmi (80). Her only contact with the “authority” is the Forest Department.

Kethi, a Bettada Kuruba tribal of Nagapua Ist block, says she is “more than 100 years old” and has voted in all the elections since she was eligible but has not seen a single candidate so far. “Neither the candidates nor senior leaders come to the hamlets but local party workers approach the more influential members of the community and ferry them for meetings. Campaigning, if any, is restricted to group housings in resettlement colonies like Veerahosanahalli,” said Sunil, a Jenu Kurub from Nagapura.

Even then, tribal people are politically more conscious and aware of the major political parties and recognise them by their symbols, according to Jayanti, a Jenu Kuruba tribal from Veerahosanahalli, who mentioned that the lack of drinking water was a major problem in tribal haadis. Issues plaguing tribal people in most hamlets are the same and include lack of basic amenities.

Notwithstanding their travails, most tribal people proudly state that they have voting rights and Electors’ Photo Identity Card and will exercise their franchise.

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