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The ‘outburst’ of long political neglect

Archana Phull | Shimla |

Politically ignored for decades, folks in one of the most backward sub divisions of the country, Shillai in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh are out on the roads in protest, probably for the first time.
They have been opposing the sudden transfer of Sub Divisional Magistrate, Vikas Shukla last week reportedly in the midst of hullballoo over the survey conducted by him on marriages of girls from poor background in Shillai to men in Haryana and other states, which had brought to light some factors linked with socio-economic stress.
The issue had a background that forced by circumstances, the poor and illiterate people reportedly marry their daughters to men from neighbouring states, who come looking for brides due to skewed sex ratio in their areas while subtly offering help to parents.
A major concern was that a number of marriages solomenised so were allegedly not registered, which ultimately went against the interest of the girls.
The phenomena has reportedly been troubling the state for long, but none has ever admitted it officially.
Even this time the government denied it and in return issued a show cause notice to the SDM over media reports on the issue.
The officer has been shifted at a less important post of Assistant Settlement Officer in Solan district now.
All this has not gone down well with local folks, who have been taken for granted by the politicians in Shillai all through the decades in their unawareness.
Shillai assembly segment has a tough terrain bordering Uttarakhand and hasn’t seen much development.
People here are extremely poor. They are subsistent farmers and a good number of them are working in Shimla as porters.
The Congress party has ruled this constituency for maximum time, which had a bad connectivity with villages sparsely located up or down the hills, until the Pradhan Mantri  Sadak Yojajana came early last decade.
At the moment, however, it has a BJP MLA. 
“The survey conducted by staff of Integrated Child Development Scheme had a good intention. The administration wanted to aware the people get the marriages registered as per law so that the rights of the girls are safeguarded. But we can sense, the issue is not limited to this. He was correcting the systems which local leaders always ignored. The politicians could not appreciate that the officer was mingling with people and was  awakening them, taking initiative to solve their problems of water, power and roads, which have continued for long,” said Inder Thakur, a local activist with Democratic Youth Federation of India.
“The agitation is joined by different organisations working in different areas of Shillai as it was for the first time that an officer used to go on foot from village to village in interior areas to spread awareness about government schemes, talked about development and public interest,” said Jai Thakur, Jan Sewa Sangathan, Timbi.