DRDO is making ‘big, big’ planes inside, say villagers of Challakere
Villagers of Voru Kaval and Navilekunte in Challakere (Chitradurga Dist, Karnataka), have very little clue about the activities inside the Aeronautical Test Range (ATR) being readied by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
They only know that DRDO is making ‘big planes’ inside.
“Nobody is allowed inside. They are making big, big planes,” says one of the villagers whom this Correspondent met while returning from the ATR, which will be inaugurated on May 28.
Under a massive peepal tree, the villagers had assembled for their regular chit-chat and chai. Giving them company was a couple of monkeys, who according to them, are the permanent residents at a nearby Hanuman temple.
Most of the villagers who spoke to Mathrubhumi said that they need jobs and were not ‘bothered’ about what goes inside.
“Even our MP (Member of Parliament) and MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) are not allowed to go in,” says another man, with his blood-red teeth, thanks to the paan effect.
“Many of our boys have diploma in electrical and electronics. There are hundreds of them wanting to get a job. If DRDO provides them all a job, then we are happy,” he says.
When told that the presence of ATR and other research facilities might be a boon to the local economy, another man said, their concerns were different.
“We have no place to graze our cattle and sheep. To top it all, there is water scarcity all the time owing to drought. We need water and jobs. Let them do whatever they want inside,” says Mudde Gowda, who seems to be the eldest in the group.
Many villagers are currently engaged as casual labourers at the ATR and they say their flightpath to future is not clear.
“I have been employed here (ATR) for the past nine months. I need to support my son who is in college. I am not sure what will happen after the work is over,” says Chandra.
DRDO officials say the pipe lines laid for water supply to ATR from Vani Vilasa Sagar reservoir (Mari Kanive) situated 70 km away, have come as a blessing to the villagers as well.
“All villages enroute have benefitted as they too would get the water,” says a DRDO official.
He said the ground water at Challakere has fluoride content in it.
While majority of locals are convinced that the ATR and other facilities of ISRO, BARC and IISc would benefit them in one way or other in future, there are still some, who have doubts in their minds.
May be DRDO should make an effort to engage the villagers and their families by giving them a guided tour of the ATR and its facilities, where once they grazed their cattle and sheep freely.
This in many ways would end misconceptions they have about ATR, including excessive ‘axing’ of trees and ‘damage’ to the flora and fauna.
And who knows, there could be a little Abdul Kalam waiting in the wing at one of the schools in Voru Kaval, in search of that one spark to propel his dreams.
And, the tour, as a special gesture, would also help them to get a glimpse of the ‘big, big planes,’ DRDO is making!