The Vellar tourist village was planned on the lines of Dilli Haat in New Delhi. Its success as a prime tourist hub was assured because of its close proximity to the international beach resort in Kovalam. However, this being god's own country, nothing goes the way man proposes. The Vellar Tourist Village has been open now for around eighteen months and it is yet to get any water or electricity connection. The 15 acre compound that was to become a thriving centre of art, food and commerce, now lies at the disposal of social miscreants and dogs.
Lopez is one of the three security guards appointed at the tourist village. He has been witnessing the gradual degradation of the village since its inception one and a half years ago.
“This place actually used to attract big crowds at the beginning. The food fests and the cultural fests that were held here used to be big hits. But, for some reason, this place was never given any electricity connection. When the events were held, the required power was met by running diesel generators. So, even with the fest becoming a hit, attracting huge crowds, the organisers were operating at a loss,” says Lopez, standing guard to the 15 acre, deserted property.
The Vellar tourism village was built at a cost of Rs.7 crores. The building, the walkways, the lamp posts, and the lamps- everything has been set up at the village, except for the electricity connection.
“It is during the night that the problems get worse. By nightfall, various types of insects and other creatures like snakes come out. We are not able to see a thing because all we have are kerosene lamps. Then there are the dogs, whose numbers have increased greatly since they grow and breed unchecked.”
Lopez has no choice but to stay vigilant all through the night, more to protect himself than the dilapidated and deserted tourism village.
“The vastness of the place, the cover of darkness and the facilities they are provided with, this being a tourist village, have made the place a favourite haunt for local drunkards. They arrive in groups and pay no heed to my warnings of this being a government property. Worse comes when the effect of the alcohol sets in. There is no telling what someone under the influence of alcohol would do. I won't even be able to see who or what hit me in the dark.”
The water requirements of the village were to be partially met through rain harvesting. The pond, which was walled and shaped to blend into the tourist village, with a capacity of 5 lakh litres, was to be the source.
“The pond is still being used by the local population for bathing and washing purposes. The water in the pond is all contaminated now. It needs to be cleaned thoroughly to become usable again,” says Lopez.
Interested people still approach the tourist village to know about lease details, but return as soon as they learn about the unavailability of water and electricity. The elegant, traditional style building, now shelters dogs and weeds adorn the walkway that takes the visitor to the top of the small hill to present him with a marvellous view of the sea.
The project was jointly conceived by the tourism ministry and Kudumbashree. Earlier this year, the state government had asked the city corporation to seek ways for setting up a waste treatment plant at Vellar. But the project never got beyond the initial talks, since the company appointed by the state government to carry out the project for the city corporation, backed away from it within a matter of days.
Currently, Vellar tourist village lies sharing a fate similar to the Akkulam tourist village project. Political muddles revolving around individual gains pose as genuine reasons for the present condition of this unfulfilled promise. But Lopez, the security guard of the 15 acre property, has a reason quite different to point out, one which he believes is just as valid.
There is a small deity within the village, which now lies uncared for and barely accessible in a spot infested with overgrown thickets.
“This Devi was worshiped by the people here before the village came up,” says Lopez. “While the village was being constructed, no one bothered about relocating this deity in full accordance to the rituals. Instead, they just ignored it. When we build a home, the first thing we do is to have it blessed with the grace of god. But in the case of this village, not only was the grace never sought, it was ignored and disrespected. For me, there is no other reason accountable for what the place has become now.”
Graceless and abandoned, the Rs.7 crore tourist village at Vellar now lies at the disposal of miscreants and dogs. The security guards on duty play mute spectators to the overwhelming darkness of the night as one more of the city's tourism's projects hits the dirt.