Located a few distances away from Visakhapatnam city, the Tribal hamlet in Vizag agency continue to use horses as their only means of transport due to the lack of proper infrastructure facilities available to the residents.
The villagers depend on the forest for their livelihood as they have no two-wheelers or roads to use. Surrounded by hilly terrain, they travel 12 to 25 km a day despite uneven terrain, streams, and water bodies to nearby villagers to sell their crops and buy essentials.
The community is accustomed to travel via horses to reach Mandal centres in villages like Araku, Paderu and others in the agency area for routine work such as selling their crops, products and purchase essentials. They produce a variety of pulses, cereals, commercial crops, vegetables and fruits and whatever possible.
They travel on horses to buy their essential commodities, medicines, vegetables, etc, making the horses a very imported part of their families. Since there is no facility of a veterinary health centre, the villagers take extra care of these animals. “As there are no veterinary doctors here, we give medical aid to the horses if anything happens to them. Horses are part of our lives. We treat them as our children," the villagers said with pride.
With almost one horse found in each house, they reside in G Madugula, Lambasingi and other areas nearby.
Interestingly, the horses are also used for official works — from carrying voting machines and election officials during the polls — to help lift bodies of those slain during the clashes between the Police and Maoists.
In fact, to educate their children at Surlapalem village in G Madugula Mandal, villagers also provided a horse to a teacher, G Venkataramana.
Horses are sold for Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 at the Madugula Mandal and Kedipeta area bazaars and nearby places in the agency areas. Many hamlets in the Mandals, Thandas and small groups of families also take care of their horses’ food and health.
In the interior tribal hamlet of Dayarti in Anantagiri Mandal, home to 480 people, 109 families have ration cards while the other 15 families do not receive any welfare support from the government. However, the village has 70 horses, with one horse found in the household of at least two to three families.
Former ward members and Dayarti residents have also said theirs is the only hamlet in the state to depend on horses for travel completely.
The villagers spend nearly Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 per month on food and other expenditures for each horse. They claim that “the horses are helpful during occasions like marriages and festivals. We use them to carry goods and transport our relatives and guests from the road eight kilometres away.
Reacting to this, the CPI(M) Visakhapatnam district unit executive member K Govinda Rao said that despite the government made several proposals to lay a road to the village under MNREGS, no action was taken yet.
When asked, Visakhapatnam Tribal Welfare executive engineer said that they will lay a road to Dayarti which was recently sanctioned.