“We have no road to prosperity here,” said Pawana Kumari, 36, from isolated Bara Banghal in Himachal Pradesh.
People in Bara Banghal pocket in Kangra district live in isolation, completely left out in the path of progress in the fast developing hill state.
The Bara Banghal Panchayat comprises two villages- Ghraan and Phaal- with a populace of over 700.
The area is inaccessible and the people have to trek for 70 kilometres on the mountain to reach home.
It takes them two to three days to reach Bara Banghal on foot, either from Bir in Kangra or from Holi- Naya Gran in Chamba.
Seven decades after independence, there is no road neither any serious effort for that. Even the paths or night shelters to make it a safe and secure trek for locals, who cross 4,700 metres high Thamsar Pass (from Bir)across the mountains don’t exist.
“We stay under big rocks or natural caves on way at night. It’s scary, but then what else can we do? ” said locals.
The absence of road to Bara Banghal is primarily responsible for backwardness, as people here live in abject poverty and have not seen the concept of ‘welfare state’.
They are into agriculture and are mainly shepherds.
All of them migrate to Bir for six months in winters when the weather turns harsh and treks become treacherous for snow fall. The ‘double shelter’ leaves their economy poorer every year. “People grow Rajmash. But that’s just hand to mouth. They have to transport the produce on mules to Bir, which involves high costs. There is no support system,” said Bairu Ram, 68.
Bara Banghal defies HP’s claims on 100 per cent electrification.
The people here still light up houses at night with ‘jugnus’ (lighted branches of a tree) or use a low battery, solar lights as the only hydro project built on charity by Sai Foundation in 2003 for locals is shut for want of maintenance by state agencies.
The health facilities are non-existent. The Ayurvedic dispensary here is reportedly run by a Peon. The medical emergency means the person has to be taken on a horse for 70 km to reach the nearest health facility.
Bara Banghal got its primary school upgraded to High School- which too shifted to Bir in winters- some years ago. It is run by one or two teachers at a time as outsiders avoid going there for tough terrain. The area has seen an odd or two are graduates so far, doing clerical jobs.
“We are still living in an old era, in conditions harsher than even tribals. But we have not been given tribal status,” lamented Amro Devi, 61.
The locals said the politicians haven’t shown interest in the development of Bara Banghal owing to its ‘political insignificance’ in terms of ‘vote bank’.