A Dalit village called Kattehole

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Kattehole Village

Southwest and around 30 minutes drive from the main Hiriyur taluk (168 km or 3-hour drive from Bangalore), is a Dalit village called Kattehole. It is neither a permanent village nor relocation site for the Dalits. Where their houses stand is part of a forest reserve. The government just allows them to live there temporarily (though they have lived there for decades already). Only God knows when they will be evicted.

Kattehole Village

Kattehole Village

Riding an air-conditioned traveler van did not make the road trip pleasant at all. The roads are not the best ones but are still acceptable to my standards. The main road is wanting for an asphalt overlay but it is, nonetheless, passable. The dirt road that looks like just a beaten footpath leading to the village is still passable though it would prove to be challenging during the monsoon. Save for the occasional cow and a goat tribe crossing and blocking the way that amused us while treading this dreary road that seemed to lead nowhere.

I have been to many remote parts of the Philippines and passed through the worst road conditions, but those trips were more of a challenging adventure. With houses on the roadsides and abundant trees where one can take a rest and feel a whiff of cold air, it would be a less boring ride, but not in this case.

Suffice it to say, going to the Kattehole village was depressing. There is an occasional oasis of coconut plantations and tamarind trees lining up the main road but after that, everything is depressingly barren.

Kattehole Village

The village is inhabited by 15 families or less than 150 individuals who were driven to this far-flung village due to extreme poverty. The place is supposedly a forest reserve but we saw no forest. Instead, it was a barren land filled with dried thickets and bushes. The people thrive on farming depending much on rainfall. Some families who are better off by growing livestock like goats and cattle.

Unlike in the poorest barrio in the Philippines, where there is at least one mom and pop store in the community, Kattehole has none. Good thing they have a community water source and a primary school for the kids put up by the government. Other basic social services like social welfare, health, and elementary and secondary education would have to be availed in the town more than15 kilometers away. The lack of public transportation forces these people have to walk four kilometers to the nearest bus stop under the rain and heat of the sun. With the absence or lack of government services like social welfare and health services on the ground, they are left to fend for themselves.

Kattehole Village

Kattehole Village

Kattehole Village

Kattehole Village

There is no electricity either. They are off-grid despite the fact that windmill farms abound in the mountains nearby. Being in an informal settlement, adds salt to the injury. They cannot be given electricity at all. Save for the solar-powered home lighting system, which they availed on loan through a social enterprise that aim provide poor communities with affordable systems--that makes living among these Dalits a little less difficult.

Kattehole Village

This village is not even considered a microcosm of India's poverty. The 150 poor people would be statistically insignificant compared with the 500 million people in India that are living in the most dire conditions.

Having worked for poverty alleviation for more than 20 years in the Philippines, I thought I have known the intricacies of poverty that well. I could not help but make a comparison. I could initially say, our poor people are better off than theirs--but not.

Kattehole Village

Kattehole Village

Poverty has to be understood in its own context. The Philippines has a different poverty context. In the same light, India has its own intricacies--not to mention the culture, tradition and the caste system they follow where only a tiny bit can cross over--if any at all. It takes time to understand why India, which is one of the rising economies in the world has to contend with and can live with 500 million poor Indians. For me, that is quite unfathomable.

See more photos at: KATTEHOLE VILLAGE in Flickr.

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Aside from my day job, I love photography and storytelling. Going places--be it a cliche destination or the far side of the road--stoke and free my soul. I dig deeper into the people’s psyche, culture and ethnicity, and heritage. I love to observe how they thrive and build social institutions, preserve their culture and traditions.


Micole l Philippine Traveler said...

This is indeed another eye opener to issues that not only our country is facing but also other countries. My heart especially goes to the children here. I saw the picture where I think they are in class or a teaching session. It is depressing. I cannot fathom that their government has not reached out more to these people. In time, i hope they do.

More power to eye opener posts like this sir!

Ding Fuellos said...

Thanks, Micole!

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