Thursday, Aug 19, 2004
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By Our Staff Reporter
TIRUNELVELI, AUG. 18. The vast barren stretches of South Panaivadalichathram, a small hamlet on the Tirunelveli-Sankarankovil highway, are a testimony to the absence of farming operations owing to acute water scarcity.
But new tractors parked in front of high-budget, `Kerala-type' houses and youth riding brand new Passions and Liberos through the grimy roads suggest that there is something abnormal.
When a Kerala police team descended on the village 10 days ago and arrested a ragpicker on charges of burglary, a hint came of the source of income for construction of posh houses, requiring between Rs. 15 lakhs and 20 lakhs, built on 10 cents of land or even more.
Over 35 big houses have been built in this village and 10 others are in various stages of construction. But the ``owners'' have deserted most of these houses and settled elsewhere after the police raids.
The villagers say the owners have either gone to their farms or migrated to Kerala in search of employment.
M.S. Murugaiah, sub-inspector (crime) attached to Panaivadalichathram station, says successive droughts have driven men, especially youth, out of this hamlet and most of them are labourers and ragpickers in Kerala.
They found ``greener pastures'' in secluded houses under lock and key, which yielded them a lot of money to construct big houses in their village and get costly household articles, including washing machines though water is a rare commodity. ``Yes, this village is a black spot,'' admits Mr. Murugaiah.
The panchayat president, A. Senthurpandian, admits that some youths have tarnished the image of the village, indulging in ``unwanted activities'' in Kerala.
``There is no farming activity in our village as we cannot get a trace of water even after sinking wells up to 600 feet. The Government should give alternative employment to youth.''
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