An Unforgettable trip to Burugguputtu: May 20-May23, 2011
In our quest to understanding different cultures, Anil and I set out to spend some time with Vanavaasis of the Eastern Ghat Region in the Visakhapatnam District. 109 Kms from Vizag City, Burugguputtu is a remote Tribal Hamlet set amongst rolling meadows and a mountainous backdrop.
Vanavaasi Kalyan Aashram organized this trip for us and we are indebted to Sudhakar Ji, Vanavaasi Kalyan Aashram Eastern AP Pramukh who took time off his punishing schedule to accompany us for a day at the tribal Hamlet.
Vanavaasi Kalyaan Seva Kendra is an Organization rendering a yeoman service to our not to privileged brethren dwelling in the forests.
The Mission of the Organization was simple – to let our Vanvaasi Brethern feel one amongst us and contribute to the cause of Nation Building. What Anil and I were going to be doing was to spend some time at the tribal hamlets, mingle with them, understand their aspirations in life and hear them speak about their perspectives about a lot of things – Governance, Education, Healthcare, the threat of Christian Missionaries and so on.
We’d arrived at Vizag on Thursday (20th May) and met Sudhakar ji in the afternoon. Sudhakar Ji is one of those folks with whom you connect almost instantly. In no time did we feel that SudhakarJi was a familiar person and we were talking on range of subjects – Politics, Nationalism, RSS, Tribal Welfare, Life of an Average Vanvaasi and so on. Sudhakar Ji was eloquent and his surefootedness was inspiring.
We woke up to a wet Friday morning. We had plans to start by 9AM so that we could reach Paderu by lunch time. We had to delay our program by a couple of hours, owing to rains.
Nevertheless, We started at 1130 hours after the rains had subsided. Overnight Rains had changed the landscape into a lush, green kaleidoscope that was a treat to the eyes. We soaked up those sights with our camera.
It was going to be a 4 hour drive in the Jeep; Balakrishna, an aspiring Post Graduate Student, hailing from the agency area was at the wheel while Sudhakar Ji was at the rear seat. Sudhakar Ji was mentioning to us about the Tribal Hamlets, their Native Culture, their Zest for Life, their Penchant for Celebrations and so on. Balakrishna chipped in too with inputs about traits of an Average Vanvaasi, their emotional side et al. Anil and I were only too excited to stay with them and experience their way of living.
Two hours into the drive, we pulled over to Chowdavaram for Lunch and all of us had ordered for “full Meals”
Back in to the Jeep and we were now ascending up the Eastern Ghats towards Paderu. The Temperature had dipped considerably and we were now being greeted by the balmy winds from the pristine mountains.
We reached Paderu Town by 4:30PM and checked in at Sri Chinnaiah’s House. Chinnaiah Ji is a primary school teacher and hails from the Remote Burugguputtu village, which were to visit this evening. Smt Chinnaiah treated us to an excellent cup of Chai that had a remarkable flavor that seemed to be completely in tune with the weather J
We were to leave for a Remote Tribal Hamlet Named Burugguputtu, about 9 kms away by kachcha road (a generous word that) from Paderu town. Locals trek another route that cuts the distance by half.
We reached Burugguputtu village by 7PM in the evening and were accorded a rousing reception.
Sudhakar Ji along with Chinnaiah introduced us to the folks just as the way a father would introduce guests to his family.
We exchanged pleasantries with the chieftains, had a sumptuous meal and interacted with the young boys to connect with them. It was an easy ice breaking session than I’d imagined and we slept for the night.
For the next 3 days, we were to stay put at Simachalam’s Home and he was to be our guide. Simhachalam in reality is also an Art of Living Teacher, engaged part time in teaching pranayam techniques to the vanvaasis.
Burugguputtu village is home to about 35 families (Total Population=145-150), of which 90% of them belonging to the Konda Dora” community. The rest belong to “Kummara” community.
We learnt that the Agency area is home to about 33 communities with distinct identities. The most noticed amongst them are the Bhagataas, Valmikies, Konda Doras, Kummaras, Peeteejees . . . .
Anil and I had a chance to interact with the cross section of the people in the Hamlet and discovered that they are a Happy Bunch with zest for life. They live in complete harmony with nature and worship nature as a “mother”. The Celebrations and festivals also revolve around the crop harvest seasons apart from Dasara, Deepawali and other prominent Hindu festivals.
Thanks to the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan Scheme of the Government, The Konda Doras today are a progressive community and are also backing their children to take to Education. There is a Primary school in the village with a regular Teacher. Docculuru, a hamlet 2 KMS away offers schooling upto Standard 10. To pursue Intermediate and Higer Education, the students trek to Paderu Town, which is about 5 Kms Away. Paaderu Town is home to a couple of Govt Intermediate/degree colleges and as many private colleges.
Remarkably so, We did not come across any gender based discrimination at all. Infact, we’d observed that the girl students are encouraged to go to Vizag and pursue a course of their choice.
It is mostly a Localized Economy with the Hamlet almost being self sufficient. Locals are mostly engaged in crop cultivation. The produce includes Paddy, Coffee, Haldi, Pepper, Channa, Rajma, flowers and Jack fruits. Almost every house hold has in its name about 3-4 acres of land under cultivation. The Govt of India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is a hit amongst the Vanvaasis too. About four hours in the morning is devoted to NREGA which fetches them an income of INR125-150 per day for about 100 days in a year. The annual income on average per House-hold ranges in between INR 80,000-90,000 Per Annum.
The Government RMP visits the Hamlets once in two weeks with stocks of medicines for regular health check-ups.
We’re told that the nearest govt medical centre, in Paaderu town, is in a state of neglect and that the conditions are appalling to say the least. We hope the Govt departments pull up their socks and set things right.
- Lack of Sanitation: This is an area of concern. The Vanavaasis do not have an access to regular toilets and use the fields as Toilets.
- Lack of Availability of clean Water: The water is drawn from a well located 200 mts away from the hamlet. The general practice is to Boil the water and drink.
- Career Counseling: The students are no doubt competent. All they need is direction and exposure.
- Women specific issues are needed to be addressed as well
All said and done, it was Memorable trip. The Vanvaasis are an unforgettable bunch of people with king size hearts. We promised them that we’re going to come back soon.