Continued neglect of Pangi, an isolated and tough tribal belt of Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh, may prove dear to the political parties in the Lok Sabha elections 2019. Voters here are talking of poll boycott, calling the village the ‘Kalapani’ of Himachal.
“Pangi is seen as ‘Kalapani’ of Himachal as life here is more of a punishment. We are cut off from rest of the world for six months in winters for snow on passes. This virtually pushes the people of Pangi in the mouth of death if someone falls sick, as health services are very poor. Political parties make promises in polls to improve our fate only to forget about it later. Enough now,” said Haresh Sharma, coordinator of Pangi Surang (Tunnel) Sangharsh Samiti.
He referred to the resolve by most of Praja Mandals (43 in all) in Pangi to boycott the polls. The Praja Mandals are village committees that function apolitically and have lent support to the Sangharsh Samiti in these elections, according to Sharma.
There are 16 panchayats in Pangi with over 13,000 voters, and the state is going to polls in the first phase on 11 April.
“For decades, we have been promised round the year connectivity through a tunnel to connect Tissa in Chamba with Pangi. But the project has not taken off, except for surveys. The people of Pangi feel cheated and are not in a mood to relent this time, even if the parties make commitments now,” said Sharma.
He said the Ministry of Defence would save crores of rupees every year if the tunnel materialised.
The tunnel construction will not only help the people of the valley have quality life, but will also be important from strategic point of view as it will largely cut short the distance followed by Army trucks from Pathankot to Leh via Manali.
Pangi is part of Bharmour Assembly segment and Mandi Parliamentary constituency, which also includes the tribal districts of Lahaul & Spiti and Kinnaur.
Pangi is connected to Manali through Rohtang Pass and with Chamba through Saach Pass. Both the passes have been under snow for over five months.
The Bharmour Assembly segment comprises Bharmour and Pangi. So far, all Bharmour MLAs have come from Bharmour area, which too has been the reason that Pangi is in a state of neglect.
“Democracy is for development. Why should we vote when here is no development here? See the condition of people in Pangi. They keep on standing for helicopter flights to go out of Pangi for medical emergencies or other urgent work but never get them on time,” said Sharma.
He added: “The Community Health Centre (CHC) in Pangi does not have specialists. The fresh MBBS graduates are sent there to serve, who fail to win the faith of people. In emergencies, patients are referred out of Pangi. The patients find it difficult to travel over 300 kilometres to reach Jammu. The deaths due to medical emergencies in Pangi have increased over time. The pregnant women are the most affected.”
Sharma said the Samiti had sent representations to successive governments, but to no avail.
Pangi locals share that the telecommunication facility in the valley was negligible. This has not only rendered the region under-developed but affected the social life too.
Just before the code of conduct came into force, the Sangharsh Samiti had submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office through the deputy commissioner of Chamba regarding the feeling of Pangi villagers about the Lok Sabha polls.