NATIVES of Yeoor Gaon who have been living in the village for nearly four generations watched warily as their neighbourhood changed inexorably over the last decade or so. While builders and politicians have built hotels, resorts and clubs here on the fringe of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Thane, the villagers face a serious crisis of unemployment and falling income levels.
The Yeoor Hill area has six small hamlets, inhabited mostly by tribals. Despite the sudden profusion of the hotels and resorts on the hill slopes, the villagers have found it difficult to find a livelihood. The common complaint is not that outsiders are setting up businesses on their land but that the locals are unable to get employment locally.
Also, according to the villagers, the government has built roads and provided infrastructure on view of the tourism potential of the area, but the tribals — the major population of the area — are still to get sufficient aid.
Villager Ram Lahu said, “We received Rs 6,000 from the government to build toilets with which I could only build four walls. We still don’t have toilets as I am short of money.”
He said some of the homes in other hamlets do not have electricity and water connections too. The hilly and eco-sensitive area of Yeoor falls under the Thane Municipal Corporation. Known as a “semi-hill station” — a quick one-day getaway from Mumbai — many youngsters, nature lovers and trekkers visits Yeoor Hills for recreation.
The locals are traditionally farmers, who are now affected due to a dwindling source of income following rapid urbanisation. Many others have taken up housekeeping jobs in Thane city.
Lahu Dama Guhe, a resident of Patil Pada, said, “Earlier, we used to do farming, but now we cannot run our homes with those low incomes. We now take up jobs as labourers but again, the pay is not great.”
Complaining about medical care in Yeoor, a former sarpanch’s son, Umesh Jadhav, said, “The TMC has set up a health centre, but the facility is available only for basic treatment of fever, cough and cold. Even for a birth or other diseases, we have to rush to the civil hospital in Thane.”
Good medical care and schools are on everybody’s wishlist. The staff at the health centres said all the hamlets have one or two under-nourished children who are being taken special care of.
A young villager of Bende Pada, Nilesh Ukhade, said the biggest challenge comes at night when somebody has to be taken to Thane city.
“Travelling in night is really difficult as public transport is not available and private autos are few. A delay could cost a life,” he said.