Kollihills are fascinatingly diverse and a story in contrasts. In the years before 1950s the hills had intense political and religious fervour. There were radical and secular-liberal political ideas in the 1960s and the 1970s. Politics after the sporadic struggles against the governments of the day had a natural death. With the march of socio-economic development in the years of the 1990s and the 2000s and increased arrivals of the ‘plains people’, land alienation became rampant. It is still happening and the small and marginal farmers of the tribe are now part of the agricultural labour pool.
Most Malayalis now go to work in coffee and pepper plantations owned by the plains people. There was a time some 30 years ago the tribe depended on dry and wet paddy rice for their livelihood. Twenty years ago they turned to tapioca and became rich but lost much of their soils because every ten months they dug up the soils to harvest the roots (tapioca). Now the people have turned to pepper and made for a glut of the crop, resulting in a fall of pepper prices so low their incomes have slid down.
But now the boys and girls of the tribe have gone on to towns to make a living and their remittances make some households meet both their ends. But the pool of tribal labour find difficulty in getting work. The incidence of poverty has marginally gone up. Yet one finds their houses locked for several hours of the day for they are at work in the fields, either their own or others’, some grazing cattle / goats.
Scattered as they are across the hills, interior hamlet-communities are constrained in their movements and make up the most economically hard-up segments. Access to markets is winding and steep and take hours to reach. There have been distress-induced migrations. Some hamlet communities prefer to marry their daughters off to their relatives in the towns below.
Ecotourism of the hills has flourished and the visitors have brought incomes to the poor and the rich. Resorts, hotels and restaurants small and big do roaring business. Overnight stays are more expensive than in the plains below. Whereas the alcoholism among the tribe is bothersome, the visitors make it even worse: empty liquor bottles sit almost everywhere and plastic sachets and carry-bags blight the otherwise sylvan and picturesque surroundings.
Welcome to our new blog. We've teamed up with our colleague in India, Thangavelu Vasantha Kumaran, to publish updates on his humanitarian work in southern India. Updates will first be published in our newsletter, followed by more detailed updates here on our blog, for those who want to learn a little bit more!