Army, Himachal reach out to pacify India – China border villagers

Shimla: Elected panchayat representatives may be facing sedition charges for having expressed frustration with state authorities for having neglected Pin Valley residents on the India-China border in Spiti out in the cold for long but the strong protest has had its impact on both the Indian army and the state.

In a knee jerk reaction the Himachal Pradesh government and the army have made efforts to reach out and pacify the seething anger in the high altitude valley.

Where law enforcing agencies swiftly moved in first arresting Lobsang Tandup, president (Pradhan) of Sagnam panchayat and Chhewang Topge, president of Kungari panchayat slapping sedition charges for having made a ‘China Chalo’ remark to a television network crew (the video’s of which surfaced in about 3 weeks ago), the state government has fast tracked its administration to float a tender for construction of a vital bridge over Kiri stream that got washed away in June 2012 that left 13 Pin valley villages without any road connectivity.

Chief minister Virbhadra Singh having termed the sedition episode as unfortunate told reporters that there was no dearth of funds marked for development of tribal areas such as Pin Valley.

There is a steel bridge at Atargu on River Spiti which connects Pin valley to rest of Spiti valley. The government has even constructed roads upto Mudh, the last village in the valley, said the chief minister.

He added that flood in seasonal flood in Kiri stream between Atargu and Gulling had washed away a small bridge. “Construction of the bridge would start in a day or two”, Virbhadra told the media on 3rd September, 2014.

The arrested panchayat members had spewed anger for there not being any secure road connectivity to their villages at a time when the pea crop in valley was being harvested.

Green pea is the only cash crop of Pin valley which the villagers are unable to market after the of bridge over Kiri rivulet collapsed three years ago.

The valley has a very short crop growing season, for long winters lasting over 6 months do not permit sowing of more than one crop on the scarce farmlands in the region.

File Photo: A bridge across Pin river [Courtesy Debashis Dey]
File Photo: A bridge across Pin river [Courtesy Debashis Dey]

The villagers are risking their lives on a daily basis in trying to cross a broken down bridge with sacks of harvested pea sacks on their backs to get them to the market, Tandup and Topge had told the television channel on August 22, before facing sedition charges.

If our government has washed its hands of with the problems that we face, then we will not be reluctant in seeking help from China,” Lobsang Tandup had said in his controversial statement made on camera.

A court in Kinnaur had sent the two into judicial custody till today (September 10) for the statements made.

Ravi Thakur, vice president, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the MLA from Lahaul-Spiti, a few days ago, had told reporters at Manali, “migration of villagers from villages close to borders is largely due to lack of infrastructure and this migration is a serious matter of concern.”

 “It could be dangerous for national security,” he had said.

Sunil Sharma, ADC at Kaza (Lahual-Spiti) holds that impact of global warming was melting glaciers in the region.

“The melting of Ulatop glacier was generating heavy muck flows, which had damaged the Kiri Bridge a few years ago. The administration after spending Rs 8 lakhs had laid out a foot bridge that got damaged on 19 August, 2014,” said Sharma.

Sharma had also disclosed before media that Rs 1.63 crore had been sanctioned to construct an alternate route to the landlocked villages of Pin Valley. “Tenders for the construction job would be floated on 25th August, 2014”, he had said.

Sensing the neglect that Pin valley residents are facing that found expression in the protest by the panchayat representatives, the army conducted medical and veterinary camps in Pin Valley on 5 and 6 September, 2014.

“A team of medical officers from Army and veterinary doctor visited the remote villages of Kungri and Sagnam in Pin Valley. A total of 357 villagers and 87 cattle head were treated and provided medicines. In addition, a health camp was also organised for students at Govt Senior Secondary School, Sagnam. Lunch was organised for the villagers”, a press release issued by the India army stated today.

 Army units stationed at Kinnaur and Sumdo conducted the medical camps for the local villagers and the veterinary camps for their livestock. The camps were organised over two days on 05 Sep 14 and 06 Sep 14, the release stated.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

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