There’s the 70 per cent of India’s population which lives in villages; then there’s Alagankulam, a village in Tamil Nadu, inhabited by the one per cent, who tabulate their wealth in millions.
Setbacks which are national cliches like droughts and illiteracy, overwhelm the village which falls under the Ramnad district. When compared to other villages or towns in this district, Alagankulam fares better on the development index.
Unlike its counterparts, economic struggles did not affect Alagankulam, in the slightest. The village rebounded from droughts and other struggles to be resilient like no other. All the more, Alagankulam sits on a creamy layer of wealth, bestowed upon it by expats in the Middle East and South East Asia.
The expats who visit the village often spare no expense in advancing the village to suit their needs. Recent improvements like lavish wedding halls, drip irrigation and a dedicated healthcare center prove Alagankulam isn’t afraid to leave a bold statement; in terms of progress.
The village residents who are now expats disclose a simple formula that greased the chains that retrained progress here. For the last four decades; the villagers took advantage of the weak rupee against the Arab Emirati Dirham. Soon enough, India’s struggling economy helped carve a mini metropolis out here by the Vaigai river.
The people from the village who work abroad have changed the face of the district. Although according to government records, Alagankulam is a village. A visit to this citified village proves other wise. Narrow lanes here lead to architecture that tempts the most jaded eyes.
Dazzling holiday villas are grounded in Tamil Nadu’s soil and south Indian traditions — not to mention the plantation chairs – lazing under the shade of coconut trees. Sweet notes of jasmine hang in the air at every front yard. It tells a story of homesick expats; balancing the reassurance of a home amidst foreign comforts.
Solar rooftops, security cameras and tar roads to prevent giant gas-guzzlers from sinking into the sand; are one of the many signs of foreign money. Sand here is found everywhere- a courtesy of the everlasting drought in this district. Old timers give credit to a Tsunami like wave which crashed here during the formative years of the village.
Pockets of sand found in the backyards of posh homes are untouched even today. Sandpits here are a probable reminder of unforgiving living conditions that was once a way of life for the mansion owners. These reminders helpe the villagers-turned-expats to root themselves in the Ramnad district.
However, in their generosity to develop the area, the plutocratic members of the village upset the locals here. Foreign money changed the economics of Ramnad district for the worse. Inflated prices of healthcare and other services made local spending powers insignificant.
There’s no fixed rate, even in places like private hospitals here. Local people complain about the exorbitant damage when they collect healthcare bills. The argument is always one sided because the floating population that resides in other countries doesn’t hesitate to pay any amount of money.
Since the returnee-expats can afford the bills, Ramnad’s markets increase the price to leech off foreign incomes. Besides healthcare, education sectors depend on donations and charities from the people who earn in foreign currencies. However, the locals here claim to face the consequences of this generosity.
Alagankulam and the district of Ramnad may have progressed in terms of wealth, but the locals here are merely puppets in an oligarchy run by the returnee-expats.