In an emergency, reaching the hilltop of Kakavada Gandi is considered to be the ‘Golden Hour’ for nearly 3,500 residents of 18 habitations of Valmiki and Konda Dora tribes in the Rampa agency in East Godavari district.
Gandi is the hilltop that can be directly reached on a two-wheeler on road for many habitations in a 15-20 km radius, while people living in the deep forest can reach only on foot.
Sans mobile tower
Kadala Sanjeeva Reddi of Lankapakala habitation of Kodda Reddi tribe told The Hindu: “The Kakavada Gandi is the only location where a single signal point is available for many networks. Mostly, BSNL’s signal from the nearest Rampachodavaram tower is guaranteed anytime. The location has been explored many years ago.”
“Like many of our local communities, we reach the Gandi by traveling 10-km distance through the forest to communicate with the mainstream, mostly in the event of snakebites, heart attack and gynaec services apart from necessary communication with relatives,” said Mr. Sanjeeva Reddi.
Hilltop signal point
When this Correspondent visited the Kakavada Gandi point on December 13 in the morning later at night, it was a congregation of locals, including tribal girls, carrying a cell phone for communication. Some educated girls told The Hindu that they stop at this point to check social networking sites and mails before proceeding to their habitation.
During medical emergencies at night, many people even hire an autorickshaw from their hamlet to reach the signal point, asking the ambulance service to come to this point to pick up the patient.
The Konda Reddi tribals added that the Kakavada Gandi is also the only source for the cell phone signal for the three habitations – Chintalagudem, Mamidilanka, and Badagunta in Devipatnam Mandal – which are nearly 20 km away from here. Other villages that depend on the hill for communication include Kintakuru, Koyyalagudem, Aakooru, Eetapalli, Peerkonda, Kakavada, Daarlavalasa, Vettisilanka, Garubukka, Tirigatirallu, and Kintu.
Mobiles and Maoists
Many of the 18 habitations are located in the core area of the Papikonda National Park (PNP). “A five-member team guard the PNP from our base camp round-the-clock. We go to Gandi for any official communication including inputs on the movements of suspected poachers with our senior officials,” Forest Beat Officer (Kintakuru Base Camp -PNP) D. Asha Rekha said.
“In recent years, work to set up cellphone towers was stopped twice after the Maoists did not allow such a facility near the Kakavada Gandi. Since then, there has been no plan from any quarter to improve the communication network,” locals on condition of anonymity told The Hindu.
While this Correspondent was returning from the PNP, many locals were seen busy with their cell phones at Gandi while some were waiting for their turn to occupy the ideal point to get the signal.