Tamil Nadu Assembly polls | For the first time, EVMs carried up Neknamalai in a vehicle

For years, the machines used to be carried on donkeys or using dolis up the hill to this village in Vaniyambadi Taluk

Forty-year old Chinnathayi looks astonished as she sees a vehicle, carrying the EVM unit, snake up through a dusty dirt road on the rocky Neknamalai hill in Vaniyambadi Taluk. This is the first time the unit is being carried up the hill using motorised transport.

"All these years, the machines used to be carried on donkeys or using dolis up the hill to Neknamalai village located five kilometers away from the foothills. This time, the dirt road was created by clearing the rocks to give us COVID-19 relief and because ministers visited our village, " recalls Ms. Chinnathayi, who was walking to the village with a bag of vegetables due to lack of transport facility.

There are a total of 160 families in the Neknamalai village and out of this there are over 500 voters. The residents are farmers and their agriculture is rain-fed as water resources are scarce. For the past many years, the villagers have been expecting some improvement for their village. They are now a little satisfied after the dirt road was laid.

For the local administration officials too the path is a big relief as they recall the arduous trek up the hills during elections. "I have seen five elections till date and every time we used to carry the machines on the head or on donkeys. Luckily prior to this poll a road was created and we took the voting unit in a mini- truck. The officials and security travelled in two other vehicles," said S. Sivakumar, assistant zonal officer, Neknamalai.

It used to take them more than an hour to reach the village where the voting centre is set up in a Panchayat Union primary school. Last time the residents wanted to boycott the polls as their long pending demand for a proper road was not fulfilled.

"We used to carry patients, dead bodies, groceries or any other goods on our shoulders or on dolis. Now one person in our village has a mini-truck, hence we use it. However we need a proper cement road. Otherwise our life will not improve for us. It is hard to ride up the hill," said T. Palani, a resident.

Devaki, another resident, said that there are no facilities on the hill. "We have to go to Vaniyambadi or Alangayam for the hospital which is many kilometers away. We need a primary health centre at least. We only have single phase power supply and outages are common," she added.

Children do not have proper educational facilities. "Teachers find it hard to come up. Some families have left the village for the benefit of their children’s education," said Ezhumalai, a resident, who completed his engineering graduation in Tirupathur.

He said that the ration shops is also far away and there is no proper water supply. "Every time the politicians give us hope, but it is never fulfilled," explained Mr. Palani.

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