“We depend more on God,” said Tsering, 53, in Losar, a very far off village near 15,000 feet high Kunzum Pass in Spiti valley of tribal Lahaul Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh
Tsering, a local priest, echoes the common feeling of tribal folks in Spiti along the Indo-Tibetan border, which lacks in government systems with their monitoring seemingly non-existent.
For this, the Spiti folks have to blame harsh weather (temperature dips to sub zero in winters), tough but fragile terrain, the distance of over 400 kilometres from the state capital, Shimla and above all, their ‘political insignificance’ in terms of voter strength.
Of over 22,000 voters in Lahaul Spiti, Spiti not even houses half of them. The cold desert of Spiti lags far behind in keeping pace with times in development, mainly in education, health care, road and telephone network. That’s why the youngsters no more prefer to live in Spiti and there is continuous exodus from the area.
The negative decadal growth rate of population -5.10% of Lahaul Spiti district as a whole from 2001 to 2011 census corroborates the phenomenon.
The tribal district has Lahaul and Spiti valleys which are separated by Kunzum Pass. In winter months, the Lahaul and Spiti valleys are cut off from each other due to snow on the Pass. Lahaul is, however, cut off from rest of the world for about six months in a year for snowfall on 13, 050 feet high Rohtang Pass.
Locals in Spiti allege that the entire focus of government is in Lahaul valley for it is landlocked in winters.
“Spiti is understood to be connected by roads through the year, but the roads are seldom through, so the hardships are even more. Our hospitals are ill-equipped for emergency services and higher education facilities are nil. So what do we do? We have to traverse 350 kilometres to Shimla in medical emergency. Going to Kaza hospital involves more hassle as it lacks in facility,” said Angmo, 68 year old woman, from Tabo.
The tele-medicine project in Kaza, which has recently won accolades at national level, has, however, made some difference to the lives of locals around Kaza in health care over last two years.
The vacancies in all government departments in this distant belt continue for long for want of a specific transfer policy. A person posted in the tribal belt has to wait for years long to come out of the area for want of a substitute.
“This demoralises the government machinery. The officials here have a lackadaisical approach. If the link road to my village is broken due to harsh weather, it would remain so for months long. Same with electricity, phone lines,” rued Tenzin, 62, a shopkeeper in Kaza.