When only polls acknowledge existence of a forgotten island

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Not far from High Court Junction, Raman Thuruth appears caught in a time warp

It is easy to miss the nondescript path near International Container Transshipment Terminal leading to Raman Thuruth. The narrow, untarred stretch, with wild undergrowth on both sides, makes for a rickety ride. At the island, visitors are greeted by rows of big, plastic water tanks and much scepticism.

“It is only when it’s election time that politicians or mediapersons seem interested in our lives,” says K.K. Sumesh, one of the 20-odd residents of the island.

Raman Thuruth, which falls under Ward 1 of the Kochi Corporation, used to be the smallest polling booth in the State. But during the 2015 local body election, the islanders travelled to Fort Kochi to exercise their franchise.

Located only five km away from High Court Junction, Raman Thuruth appears many miles away — caught in a time warp, having missed the pace at which the metropolis of Kochi has burgeoned. The five run-down houses on the island are located on marshy plots, surrounded by huge mangroves and trees. During high tide, most premises get flooded. Electricity arrived only in November 2011. Potable water reaches the island twice a week via tankers deployed by the Corporation. Water is then drawn to the houses through plastic pipes laid by the residents. “But that does not suffice and we end up fetching water manually several times a day,” says Manju Paulson, a resident.

However, 62-year-old Herman Gilt says the island has come a long way. “Earlier, we had to row our wooden boats to Bolghatty Island to fetch drinking water. There was no electricity too, and we depended on kerosene lamps.”

The access road to the island is as recent as the nearby Container Terminal. “There was only a narrow bund-like structure earlier, with water flowing on both sides, and walking on it was risky,” says Mr. Sumesh. When it rains, the access road turns all muddy, and it’s difficult to walk home at night, he adds. The absence of streetlights and the presence of venomous snakes only add to their woes.

Every day, the islanders, including schoolchildren, have to walk nearly 1 km to reach the main road at Vallarpadam and access city infrastructure. Autorickshaws refuse to come to the island because of the poor condition of the road, says Paulson, Ms. Manju’s husband. His father died of cancer over a month ago, and he believes if his father had received medical support on time he would have lived for a few more months. Lineesh Xavier, another resident, fears the same fate awaits his bedridden mother.

“There are only five families left here. Why would the authorities care to arrange proper living facilities for us?” asks an islander.

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