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Highway bypass creates village of widows in Telangana!!

MAHABUBNAGAR: There is a killer road in Telangana that snakes its way in the guise of a 'bypass' for National Highway 44 in this district. So far, it has turned a close-knit community of 40 families into a village of widows. The oldest surviving male in Peddakunta Thanda is all of six years of age.

When the bypass came their way, residents of Peddakunta Thanda also looked forward to a service road that would provide them safe access to Nandigam, the panchayat headquarters 5km away. But the service road never materialised and January 2006 saw the start of a series of hit-and-run accidents on the bypass.

To date, this stretch of road has claimed the lives of 80 people — 30 men from Peddakunta, two men from Banda Kunta and the rest from other nearby villagers.

Nenavath Padama, a NH44 widow, said each week there were two or three accidents on the road.

"I am not sure if my two children will be safe here," said 39-year-old Korra Panni whose husband died after being hit by a speeding vehicle. "So I admitted them to the government hostels at Kothur and Shadnagar. My youngest child lives with me, but finding work is hard." Panni's husband was killed while crossing the road when he was returning from daily wage work at Shadnagar in August 2013.

Nenavath Rukya (52) looks much older than her age. And with good reason. She lost four men in her family to the road and is now nearly bedridden with an illness. Her three sons — Korra Malllesh (26), Korra Shankar (21) and Korra Ravi (18) — were killed when an unidentified vehicle hit them men and made its escape. Six months later, her son-in-law was killed at the same spot on the road.

"This has to be a curse from the Gods," she said. "What else can explain that every man in the village has been taken away from us? What sin have we committed?" she asked.

The loss of its men has exposed the village to another threat: at night, strangers from neighbouring areas knock on the doors of the widows, most of whom are between 20 and 38 years of age.

Even as Rukya was grieving for her sons, she was faced with the prospect of men from nearby villages making sexual advances towards her widowed daughters-in-law. "To protect them from these men, I had to force them to return to their parents," Rukya said.

At least six houses in Peddakunta Thanda have remained locked for some time now, after the survivors decided to leave. The other villagers have no idea where the widows who left the village are. Some, like 20-year-old Nenavath Tulasi, yet another NH44 widow, returned to her parents in Rangapoor in the district to save her dignity.

"Some of us had to earn to keep ourselves and our children alive," said another woman, Rani (name changed). "And the men wanting to spend a night know that they can come to us as long as they are willing to pay."

With the government deciding to provide pensions, most of the NH44 widows make a monthly trek to Nandigam. And to do that, they have to cross the bypass twice: once on their way to collect their pensions and then to return home.


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