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    Man who got his village connected is no more

    VELLORE: The tiny hill village of Veladhikamanipenta, near Vaniyambadi, which is on the district/state border of Andhra Pradesh, has lost one of its illustrious sons, Jalappa, who, as the village panchayat president, had spent his life to get his village connected with the rest of the world. He passed away on Wednesday at the age of 85.Veladhikamanipenta, which is about 3,000 feet above sea level, is a picturesque hill village, some 15 kms from Vaniyambadi. There are more than 200 villages in the hills, most of them in Chittoor district of AP, sharing border with Vellore. All these villages had no transport facility and the villagers who had to sell their produce at the nearest town Vaniyambadi, had to trek the hills everyday.Jalappa, as the panchayat president in 1972, was determined to get roads for the villages. He teamed up with another panchayat president, M M Basheer of Jafferabad in the foothills, who shared a similar vision. Both of them took up the matter with the TN and AP forest departments and got the approval for a road linking the National Highway 46 and NH 4 after a long struggle.Basheer, who is in his eighties now, mourning the death of Jalappa, recalled how hundreds of villagers from the hills worked day and night to clear debris. The then District Collector Paramasivam, with the help of his counterpart in Chittoor, got the roadwork extended within its territory. The `70-lakh project began in 1972 and was completed in 1974. It was declared open by the then PWD minister.While the road was ready, it did not have protective walls and hence, both the State governments had refused to ply transport services. After several efforts by Jalappa and Basheer, the wall work was completed and the mini bus service was introduced in 2008.“I cannot forget the day when the buses carrying the villagers landed in Vaniyambadi. They celebrated the victory by distributing sweets,” Basheer recalled. Jalappa was not satisfied with this. He wanted the inter-state highway to be expanded to accommodate bigger vehicles. The duo once again began their visits to the government offices and got the NABARD sanction `2.28 crore two years ago. But the work had not been taken up. Last week, Jalappa, who had already become weak due to aging, went all the way to Hyderabad to seek the intervention of the government to move papers for the expansion work.The one-acre land Jalappa had donated at Veladhikamanipenta for a school will stand testimony to this simple man, who had dedicated his life for his villages.