Lunsu is located in Dehra Gopipur area of Kangra district and is famous for its magical salt water. People from adjacent states visit the place during summer as they believe that this water cleanses the stomach and cures many stomach-related diseases.
Lunsu is also known for its lack of road connectivity. Over seven decades after Independence, this place has no road access. The only lifeline for the people in Lunsu is the railway line from Pathankot to Jogindernagar, which was built by the British.
“There is no road to our village. Life is a struggle here. All we have is impassable village routes all over the hills. Thank God we have a railway track passing through the village and a railway station,” said Kishori Lal, Pradhan of Dhar Panchayat in Lunsu.
There are nearly 3,500 residents in two Panchayats, Dhar and Dhangad in Lunsu area. People have been crying in vain over the lack of connectivity here for many decades, and rue the official apathy to their plight.
“We are thankful to the British who built this railway track near our village. It is the only ray of hope for us,” said Kamlesh Devi, a 56-year-old from Dhangad Panchayat. But this ray of hope too diminishes at times.
“The trains have to be suspended frequently in the monsoon when heavy landslides block the railway track. It has been four months and the train which arrives at 8 a.m. is still not coming”, said Onkar Singh, station master at Lunsu halt. He said often the train does not stop there as there are few passengers.
Even the village paths up and down the hills get damaged due to heavy rains. As a result people are stuck at their homes for three to four months. The village has only one Hindi medium high school. There are a number of students from nursery to college level, who have to traverse four kilometres to reach the road head. They walk through the railway track and cross four bridges to reach their nearest station Haripur where they have English medium schools.
“My son is in nursery and daughter is in fourth class. They study in a private school in Haripur. They along with other village students walk through this dangerous route and through the forest,” said Sunita Devi, 37. “My kids travel eight kilometers daily. It hurts when they come back tired and dull. They cannot even study after returning home,” she said.
The children walk in groups, especially girls, as going alone through the track is not safe. “It is scary to walk alone. Sometimes we have to take our parents along with us. There are wild animals which can harm us,” said a class 10 student from Dhar Panchayat.
The Lunsu folks metaphorically call their life “Kaley pani ki saza”. Without access to roads, medical and educational facilities, they feel cut off from the outside world.
Ambulances and other vehicles cannot reach the village, thus the people of this area carry patients in cots on their shoulders in order to reach hospital.
“Many people die in the course of transportation from hilly village paths to the adjoining road which is four to five km away. It takes five to six hours to reach the nearby hospital”, said Sita Ram, 86 year-old former ward member of Dhar Panchayat.
According to the village women, expecting mothers leave the village two or three months before their expected delivery dates. They manage to stay with their relatives or rent a place near a hospital to safely deliver children.
The villagers do not have any hope of things improving. More than fifty families have migrated to the cities in pursuit of a better future for their children. “Our village sons and their families work and stay in cities. No one wants to come back. Many families have left and many more are ready to leave,” said Madan Lal, 60, from Dhar Panchayat.
Most young people have left the village and the only ones left behind are the elderly or those who cannot afford to leave their land and houses. With no youngsters in the area now, it is getting increasingly difficult for the people to find shoulders for lifting cots of patients.
“My daughter-in-law is suffering from fits. She needs medical care immediately during fits. Here she will die as we have no access to facilities. So my son and his wife live in Delhi. And I live here all alone,” said Simro Devi, 90, of Dhangad Panchayat.