These Zanskar Villages Are Still Waiting For Road Connectivity
Nineteen years after PMGSY, Rallakung and Shun Shaday villages in Kargil are still waiting for road connectivity.
The government’s attempt to bring development to each and every corner of the state by linking cut-off villages through motorable roads under the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana seems to be a noticeable failure. PMGSY was launched in 2000 by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to provide road connectivity to unconnected villages. Nineteen years since this policy was introduced by the government, Rallakung and Shun Shaday in Zanskar sub-division of Kargil district are waiting to see the first roads to their villages.
Rallakung, a small village just 45 km from Phey village, is still waiting to be connected by road. Zanskar is the highest plateau of the state, with much of it at over 3,500 metre above sea level.
Even after 71 years of independence, hundreds of people living in these remote villages have remained devoid of any road connectivity for decades, making life difficult for these villagers. People have to walk at least 40 km from their villages before they can find a macadamised road or public transport.
In the absence of road connectivity, villagers have no choice but to undertake the arduous 80-km-trek up and down a steep, hilly path on a daily basis. During the monsoon and when it snows during winter, the track becomes slippery and life threatening.
What is more upsetting for the 50 families in Ralakung is that all the other villages, except the one in question under Phey Halqa Panchayat, have motorable roads.
No Public Distribution Centre
Adding salt to their wound is the absence of Public Distribution Centre (PDS) in the village, due to which residents have to undertake a 40-km-long trek to buy ration from the PDS distribution facility in Phey village, which is the nearest outlet. It requires traveling on the treacherous path, with people carrying 40-50 kilos of grocery either on their backs or on horses.
To hire a pony carriage, villagers have to spend hundreds of rupees. For a gas cylinder, which they source from Padum, costs Rs 1,600. This is an expensive bargain.
The worst case scenario is when someone falls sick or gets hurt, he/she has to be carried by at least four men to the nearest hospital located at Padum. With no medical facility to fall back on, pregnant women either have to deliver babies at home or get themselves admitted to a hospital much before the due date.
Thankfully, there is a primary school in the village. But for higher classes, children have to trek almost 7 hours to the nearest high school in Phey and the higher secondary school in Padum.
This remote location of the school is one of the main reasons why people in rural areas are more hesitant to invest in education for their child, especially for girls.
Even if parents want to send their child to school, distance becomes the biggest factor in educating a girl.
Lack of basic facilities such as roads in these villages of Zanskar sub-division gives an insight into the level of development in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The PMGSY scheme was launched to provide road connectivity to unconnected villages, but as the Rallakung example shows, the scheme remains a non-starter.
While a section of our society talks about living in a digital world, there is a part of our state that is yet to receive its first road connectivity.
The government celebrates an annual road safety week with the theme ‘Sadak Suraksha – Jeevan Raksha’ but Rallakung and Shun Shaday villages are so unfortunate that they are still waiting for road connectivity.
(The author is a resident of Zanskar Valley and a PhD scholar at JNU. He is currently working as a Political Science lecturer in Padum, Zanskar. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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