Shirlem-Barcem villagers living in pre-liberation era
At the time of Goa’s liberation about 50 years back, Mr Pauto Bhikro Velip, who is 100 years old today and was about 50 at that time, said he felt then that the Schedule Tribecommunity had lot of hopes that the government of Goa would strive to alleviate the hardships faced by the people of Shirlem-Barcem;
however, 50 years down the line, the villagers of Shirlem-Barcem, who number more than 500, are still living in an era that reflects the pre-liberation times, with sub-standard roads, inadequate educational facilities, basic requirements of water a daily struggle and transport facilities not much to talk about.
Mr Pauto who was just 50 years old when Goa attained liberation, said that the people of this village, as compared to today, were less in number and much better off. Though the basic amenities like electricity, water pipeline, educational facilities etc, were not available then, the people still lived in close harmony with each other. He said that a few years back, the village was electrified, but the electrification is very much faulty as the line passes through big trees and forested areas and there is large scale fluctuation and power cuts. He said the branches of trees come in contact with the cables and create short circuits which result in power outage. Besides during monsoons, branches and trees collapse and snap the cables resulting in black outs. The main electricity sub-station is kilometers away and the residents have to spend nights in total darkness. Moreover, the linesmen do not visit the village regularly and so sometimes there is no electricity supply and the same is not restored for days.
Mr Ravi Sonu Gaonkar, another villager, said that the ST community is only the vote bank for several politicians, who use them during election time by promising them the heavens and once they are elected, they do not even bother to visit the village till the next elections. He said the roads are very narrow and even on these there is no maintenance or repairs. He said during monsoons the road is inundated with rain water and there is flooding of houses on the sides of the road. The road side bushes and shrubs are never trimmed or cut which narrows the road further also obstructs the view of oncoming vehicles.
Mr Bhikro P Velip, a third villager said that there is just one private bus plying over this route, which only comes in the morning; and as there is no bus service in the afternoon, the school children have to walk 4 to 5 kilometres to the main road at Paddi. He said during the monsoons the children often reach school totally drenched. Moreover, he informed that the children have to use the shortcut through the forest, which is inviting trouble.
A visit to the village shows the many difficulties the villagers face here. One can see pot placed under dry taps, waiting for the release of drinking water. Ms Anandi Velip informed that a tank was constructed on the banks of a rivulet some years back, but the same was washed away during the monsoons, due to improper planning and poor material used. The villagers now have to depend on irregular pipeline water distribution. During the summer months of April to May, the villagers walk long distances to the river and dig holes in the dry riverbed and collect water for daily use. Mr Bhikro said that a water tanker visits the village but its visits are so irregular that the villagers cannot depend on it. He asked if this was the meaning of development.
Mr Pauto Bhikro Velip, perhaps the oldest in the village, who has crossed 100 years, said that he learnt the art of preparing medicines from herbs and roots and started providing the same to people who came to his home for the same. He says that previously, he used to travel to Canacona and even Cuncolim with the medicines. He also said that he undertook agricultural activity. He said that even today people visit him for medicines.
The people of the village are engaged in agriculture which is their main occupation. Many of them also work as daily wage earners in areas outside their village. Mr Ravi Sonu Gaonkar informed that the only time all the villagers come together is when they celebrate the festival of Shigmo. He said the three wards of Shirlem, Velipwadda and Rawapanna come together to celebrate the Shigmo festival on the hillock and that during this time, they forget all the differences between them and stay together for a few days celebrating the festival. [NT]