Chammanamthodu ST Colony residents face discrimination under quarantine; denied water

Palakkad: Around 15 families of Chammanamtodu ST Colony in Muthalamada Panchayat, Palakkad were denied bore-well water on May 24 and the families had to suffer including those undergoing home quarantine. The ST colony had been availing water from a public bore-well due to severe water scarcity in the area for the past two years. The families get water on alternate days from 4 pm to 8 pm.

Anilkumar, who works in Tirupur, was joined by his wife and children for a vacation before the lockdown. The family then came back to Kerala on May 11 and is currently undergoing home quarantine in AnilKumar’s mother-in law’s house. The family of five members- three children and two adults- who are undergoing home quarantine was allegedly manhandled by a group of people including a Panchayat ward member when they questioned them regarding the denial of water supply.

“We had to wait for water from the borewell till 11 pm on Sunday, 24 May, but it was in vain. We contacted the ward committee members but didn’t get a positive response and with no water available to meet our daily needs, we demanded for a tanker water to supply water. When the water tanker lorry came the next day, it was stopped a few metres from our house and a group of people including the ward member asked us to fetch water from the tanker and carry it to our houses although the vehicle could easily reach our houses. The rest of my family members are undergoing quarantine and I’m unable to carry water for a long distance,” said Beena Shaji, Anilkumar’s mother-in-law, who is in her 50s.

“We were manhandled by a group of people for asking the lorry driver to deliver water directly to our house. Also, my daughter who tried to take the video of the incident was slapped by a relative of the ward member,” she added.

The borewell was installed in the area two years back by using money from the Panchayat as well as collecting money from the residents of the colony. Families here paid Rs 2,000 for the water connection and Rs 500 as metre charge. Electricity bill for pumping water from the borewell is also being paid by the colony members. “Two families here were not provided with water connection as they dont have land documents. But they were provided water by water tankers. In the absence of water from the borewell, the rest of the families in the colony make use of the tankers,” said Beena Shaji.

According to Binoy Jacob, who often lobbies for the rights of ST families in the colony, the local self-governments who are responsible for meeting the needs of people under them during the quarantine period is least bothered about the welfare of the people. “What is happening in the colony is clearly the denial of human rights of ST families. The families here had sent a letter to the government complaining about the negligence of the local self-government authorities and this created tension between the ward members and the colony residents which then escalated into an assault,” said Binoy.

Most of the residents of the colony work in a nursery for a daily wage. ”The absence of water in the colony forces the residents of the colony to go to sleep without having a bath after carrying out day-long work at the nursery. Few men use the water in the nearby quarries but the place isn’t safe for women and children,” he added.

Citing the denial of human rights, Binoy said, “Rahna Anilkumar, daughter of Sheeba, who was assaulted was asked to report to the police station even when she was in the hospital after being injured in the assault. Also, the police refused to record the statement of the grandson of Beena,, aged 12 who got kicked on the chest during the assault.” Later, social workers here contacted the Childline regarding the issue.

Panchayat ward member, Sowmya Sankar, denied the charge of assault and also claimed that she didn’t stop the tanker from entering the colony. She further said, “Beena made a false allegation against the local authorities saying that we had got the water connection to her house cancelled and she sent a complaint to the chief minister. The allegation is false as we are keen on providing water to the colony members. The water supply stopped due to the issue in the valves.”

Meanwhile, C K Rajesh, Sub Inspector of Meenakshipuram Police Station, said that they have filed an FIR and the investigation regarding the issue is on.

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