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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Maharashtra Aakhri Raasta

Maharashtra: Aakhri Raasta

Updated on: 19 May,2024 07:18 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Vinod Kumar Menon | vinodm@mid-day.com

A road that exists in government records is missing on ground. mid-day travels barely 100 kms out of Mumbai to twin hamlets in Khalapur district where road connectivity, drinking water and functioning toilets are a mirage

Maharashtra: Aakhri Raasta

To attend secondary school, children must travel to Donvat, 10 kms away, which is tough in the absence of a road. Pics/Atul Kamble

One hundred and three kilometres from Mumbai, the tribal residents of the 120 households in the hamlets of Karambali Thakurwadi and Kadai Dhangarwada, in Khalapur taluka of Raigad district, fight an ongoing battle for a road that connects them to the world outside, for clean drinking water and a local school for their children. Matters get worse in the monsoon when reaching the next village even gets dangerous in the hilly terrain.   


The villagers allege that the central government’s flagship scheme Ujjwala Yojana, and toilets built under the Swachh Bharat programme, are still on paper; most households could not afford to replace the first cylinder they procured under the scheme for Rs 100 and have returned to using firewood. Because of the lack of water supply, work on some toilets was abandoned mid-way. These are now being used as storage rooms for stocking firewood.


Farmer Dama Shivde, 55, fills a water bottle from the waterhole, which is almost dry
Farmer Dama Shivde, 55, fills a water bottle from the waterhole, which is almost dry


The villagers say that they walk four kms to get potable water. After a series of letters, in 2018, the local administration assured them of a road, but they are yet to see a pucca rasta connect their hamlets to Ujaoli, 5.5 kms away. From there, a road is being constructed to Donvat. Government records however, state that a road exists from Ujaoli to the twin hamlets, and the stretch has also been assigned a Village Road Number.

Santosh Thakur, who runs the registered NGO, Gram Sanvardhan Samajik Sanstha, tells mid-day, “It is unfortunate that the villagers have written numerous letters and even held protest marches leading to the Collector’s office in Alibagh and the local Tahsildar’s office. We have also learnt that the Forest Department has not issued a crucial NOC, for right of way, as a small patch of the proposed road passes through a forest. We were shocked to learn from the road map we acquired through an RTI query, that according to government records, not only has a road been provided, it also is numbered. The reality is that there is no road!”

Sixteen-year-old Lakshman Ghate’s daily morning routine includes fetching water from a waterhole four kms on bullock cart; (right) Yeshwant Made, 23, a graduate from the village, who works at a multinational fast food joint in Panvel, says that the maintenance of the two-wheeler and monthly petrol bill [per day minimum Rs 100] makes it almost unaffordable now. Two-wheelers also bear the risk of skidding
Sixteen-year-old Lakshman Ghate’s daily morning routine includes fetching water from a waterhole four kms on bullock cart; (right) Yeshwant Made, 23, a graduate from the village, who works at a multinational fast food joint in Panvel, says that the maintenance of the two-wheeler and monthly petrol bill [per day minimum Rs 100] makes it almost unaffordable now. Two-wheelers also bear the risk of skidding

Babu Madi, a 55-year-old mason from Karambali Thakurwadi wonders, “Do we even exist for the politicians and the State; no one ever visits our hamlets.” Thakur and the residents have written to the district collector, requesting for an inquiry against officials responsible for making a false entry in government records. “We have demanded a police investigation and FIR,” Thakur says. The residents must only rely on two-wheels to negotiate the slopes and in the rains, the muck and silt rob them of this option too. 

Yeshwant Made, 23, a graduate from the village, who works at a multinational fast food joint in Panvel, adds, “Most of the houses in our village have two wheelers. However, the regular maintenance of the two-wheeler and monthly petrol bill [per day minimum Rs 100] makes it almost unaffordable now. There is so much wear and tear on the slopes that we have to replace the tyres annually. In the rains, we prefer to get drenched but walk for hours than bear the risk of skidding.”

Babu Madi, a 55-year-old mason from Karambali Thakurwadi, wonders, “Do we even exist for the politicians and the state? No one ever visits our hamlets”
Babu Madi, a 55-year-old mason from Karambali Thakurwadi, wonders, “Do we even exist for the politicians and the state? No one ever visits our hamlets”

The situation is grave especially during a medical emergency. Santosh Ghate of Khadai village says that because snake bite cases increase in the rains, the villagers resort to making a cloth cradle and carrying the injured to the nearest health care centre in Vavoshi village 12 kms away. “This is the case when women go into sudden labour or if an ageing resident falls ill.”  

Paani paani re

Lakshman Ghate, 16, is a class 11 student from Kadai Dhangarwada, and his daily morning routine includes fetching water from a waterhole 4 kms away on bullock cart. He leaves by 6 am and returns at 10.30 pm with plastic drums. A huge water tank at the entrance to Karambali Thakurwadi village has been lying dry for years. Villagers say that under the Jal Jeevan Mission, work order was issued and water was brought in a bullock cart. After that, they saw no water supply arrive for the tank. 

Soma Ambu Made, 70, and his wife Hiri, 65, are one the oldest residents of Karambali Thakurwadi
Soma Ambu Made, 70, and his wife Hiri, 65, are one the oldest residents of Karambali Thakurwadi

Dama Shivde, 55, a farmer is spotted filling a water bottle from the waterhole which is almost dry. He says close to 200 cattle arrive here for an afternoon sip. “We usually have regular flow in the waterhole, but from January, the water level dips and by May, the situation is dire. We don’t have a band to collect rain water. That would help prevent a water crisis.”  

‘We prefer firewood’

With an aim to cut down the use of firewood and unclean cooking fuels for people living below poverty line across the country, the Ujjwala Yojana was launched in May 2016, thereby making a cooking gas connection easily affordable. Amongst those benefited under the scheme were tribal villagers, including some from Karambali Thakurwadi. Out of the 80-odd houses in this village, some got a cooking gas connection by paying a mere Rs 100. However, soon after availing the scheme, most villagers say they switched to firewood. They cannot afford to buy a gas cylinder.

A half-constructed toilet outside the houses under the Swachh Bharat Mission is without water, commode, and electricity. Villagers use it to stock firewood
A half-constructed toilet outside the houses under the Swachh Bharat Mission is without water, commode, and electricity. Villagers use it to stock firewood

Soma Ambu Made, 70, and his wife Hiri, 65,  are one the oldest residents. They say they used the cooking gas for one month. The empty cylinder and cooking gas stove lie in one corner of his home, which doesn’t have its own power connection. Soma says, “Lighting a matchstick is easier; we get scared with the gas cylinder anyway. We carried the cylinder and stove on our shoulders; no mechanic was available to install it. We took help from a villager. We have no source of income and cannot afford to pay over Rs 800 for a refilled cylinder.” 

When mid-day visited Made’s home, his wife showed us how she cooks using fire wood in a pitch dark room since electricity has played truant for the last few days. The family has its meals in the dark, around the small cooking fire, on most days. “We have received no government facilities, nor have the local political candidates visited us. No one turns up nor does anyone listen to our pleas. You are the first newspaper who has visited our village so far,” a villager says. 

The Mades, like other villagers who live without electricity for days, make do with sleeping outside their homes. Day time temperatures average at 35 degrees celcius. For the last few months, Made’s home has had no electricity; the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) has cut the power supply. This seems to be the case with most houses in Karambali Thakurwadi village. 

Baburav Hirve, 40, and his wife travel a few kilometers every two days to forage dry grass to feed their cattle. “We leave our house early in the morning and return with a load of 45 kilograms each. To do this trudge on the treacherous slopes has been a nuisance,” he saysBaburav Hirve, 40, and his wife travel a few kilometers every two days to forage dry grass to feed their cattle. “We leave our house early in the morning and return with a load of 45 kilograms each. To do this trudge on the treacherous slopes has been a nuisance,” he says

“Single phase connections are provided to the village, but some of the houses do not have electricity even today. And some others have stolen power from a relative’s house nearby. The village faces an entire day of loadshedding once in a week, and during the monsoon, if a tree or branch falls on a high tension wire, the entire village is without lights for a fortnight,” says Thakur of Gram Sanvardhan Samajik Sanstha. 

Kahaan ki paathshaala?

According to the villagers, the only school in the village is a primary one, where students can study up to Class 4. To attend secondary school, they must travel to Donvat, 10 kms away, which is tough in the absence of a road. “It’s 1.5 hours one way to school. By the time they return home, they are exhausted. If there was a road, they’d cover the stretch in 15 minutes, and use the remaining day to study and play,” says Prashant Patil, a former school teacher and social worker.

No toilet, no prem katha

Toilets constructed outside houses under the Swachh Bharat Mission lie abandoned without water supply. Ankush Made, 30, a graduate, says, “In the name of a toilet, the contractor has constructed a small block, with no washbasin or water storage facility. Also there is no drainage outlet or electricity supply to use the toilet at night. 

“The toilet block is now a storage for keeping firewood,” Yeshwant Made tells us, “During the rains, it is covered with plastic sheets. There isn’t even a commode in the toilets.” Lack of basic facilities have left prospective grooms high and dry since women are unwilling to marry into families living here. “Some of the boys of marriageable age had to shift out of this village, by renting houses elsewhere,” Patil rues.

Deepali, 21, a resident of Kamothe in Navi Mumbai who got married to Lakshman Hirwa, 22, a month ago says she has to make multiple rounds of the common well for water, and it’s almost dry. She cannot climb the steep slopes with more than two handis of water at a time without fearing the risk of slipping and falling. “I am not comfortable with answering nature’s call outside the house in the dark, something I never had to bother about back home. But, I don’t have an option.”

Official Speak

Satyajit Bade, Additional CEO, Zilla Parishad, Stayajit Bade
“I will look into the matter and do the needful as per the norms, at the earliest.”

Nilesh Khillare, Deputy Engineer (Works Department), Zilla Parishad, Karjat
“The proposed road connecting Karambali Thakurwadi and Kadai Dhangarwada in Khalapur taluka of Raigad district is approximate 600 meters (4.50 kms) in length and 3 meters in width. A high-level meeting was also held with the concerned tribal stake holders from both villages and Santosh Thakur, whose NGO raised the issue. The entire tar road work was estimated to cost around R20 lakhs and required budgetary provision was also made. Though a work order was almost ready, the road work could not start as a portion of the proposed road passes through a private land owner’s property and also through forest land, mandating the need for NOC from both the private land owner and the Forest Department, which are awaited. Initially, the village had no access road, but we have spent Rs 5 lakh and have made a temporary walkway by using stones and mud, but am sure, it would not have been of much use. Once the NOC issue is sorted, we can issue the work order, and post monsoon, road work can begin.”

Rajendra Pawar, Range Forest Officer (RFO), Khalapur
The proposed road of 4.5 kilometers to both the villages, passes through a private land. Under the ‘Right to way’, the private land owner’s NOC is a must. Once that NOC is granted, the forest department will issue the required NOC.”

Santosh Thakur Founder, Gram Sanvardhan Samajik Sanstha
The private landowner is based in Mumbai and had expressed his cooperation in giving NOC, when he was contacted by the officials during the meeting, but till date he has not given the NOC. Moreover, if the revenue department, and local administration were serious, they could have acquired the private piece of land under land acquisition and easily constructed the road by now. But the fact is neither the local administration nor the revenue department is bothered about innocent villagers.

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