Malla Johar Monsoons : Worse Than June 2013 !

Munsyari. Through these columns a modest effort has been made in the past to apprise our policy makers at the state capital and its regional capital, Naini Tal of the actual conditions that prevail in the remotest part of the state and where Garhwal Post reaches some what later, if at all. That our remotest parts, especially the High Himalayan regions like the 15 villages of Malla Johar and some 7 odd villages of Darma and Byanse, all in Pithoragarh district, hardly ever figure in the International Radar of our Government India, the less said the better. 


The International Radar

Premier Narendra Modi's International Radar does catch signals from Bhutan, Nepal and now even some of the Central Asian Countries like Kyrghystan, Ujbekistan etc ( not very sure if this writer's tracking is very precise ), all of them mountainous regions, no doubt, but in so far as the mountain region of India are concerned their is always a 'connectivity-problem'. People of these parts, Munsyari-Milam in particular, are yet to know who is their BJP Member of Parliament, which Gram Panchayat has he picked up for his benign benevolence, especially in the inaccessible High Himalayan regions, and whether one year is too short a period to express his thanks-giving and 'darshan'. The Member of Parliament's absence gets particularly important as the Critical Problem in so far as all problems of the Malla Johar villages is concerned emantes from the highly objectionable mode of functioning of the Border Roads Organization ( BRO).

There has been an un-precedented One Day Total Strike all along the Tanakpur-Pithoragarh- Dharchula and Munsyari axis against the most objectionable mode of working and criminal delays that have taken plavce in completing the strategic all-weather roads linking, Lipu-lekh at Byanse end and Milam, at the Malla Johar. This most strategic road was expected to be completed in year 2012, some more than 3 years ago. If the Member of Parliament belonging to the ruling party at the Centre would have bothered to find out, during the past One Year of the BJP Rule at the Centre, Not A Single Km has been added, at either side of the Munsyari-Milam Road, being constructed by the BRO..



The people of Munsyari and Malla Johar know why Raja Trishunku acquired the fame that he did ! The Munsyari-Milam Road, which originally would have have measured a length of just 56 kms, had it been completed in 2013, now will add at least 12 kms more to its total length, 6 kms more either way, as the alignment that would have been followed in 2012 is no more relevant. Now, thanks to the continued state of disrepair and the disastrous damage caused by the June 2013 rains and disturbances, have rendered the road to be taken through the route which out for-fathers had abandoned ages ago, due to its length and difficulties. Rada Meinsing ( the ancient, traditional and the most difficult track ) , as its is famously known, is feared even by as redoubtable men as the Joharis, who know of no road under the Sun to be too difficult for their traverse. Their mountain walking capabilities are best illustrated by the fact that for centuries they took the most difficult trade route through the Himalayas, the Teen-dhura, or Three Passes route, all above 16,000 feet plus!

Forced to take this 'abominable' Rada-Meinsing route of their ancients the migrants who come down a minimum of two to three times during the entire summer, are cursing all those, starting with the Government of India, and their representatives ( the Member of Parliament ) to every one who is even remotely connected to this plight-ful miserable state of their only road to Milam and other villages ! It has the fate of Raja Trishanku, neither cared by the Gods ( The Central Govt ), nor the Mrityu-lok ( Govt of Uttarakahnd ). The representative of the Dev Lok, the MP, has had no time visiting his territory suffering the worst road connectivty, while the Mrityu-lok representative ( here unfortunately the Chief Minister himself, as the local MLA ) arguably has the ready -stock of reply, that there is not much money for maintaining a road which is under construction by the Government of India. So here is a classic case of a Trishanku Raod, to be constructed by the Government of India ( BRO ) and in the meantime maintained by the State Government ! Indeed, suffering population says it is not the Road which has become Trishanku, it is they who have been rendered in a Trishanku state ! One wonders how many regions and roads are served by roads like the Munsyari-Milam road, which ensures that the people that they are supposed to serve, fall under no jurisdictions ?

Gita Bisht, one of the first-time travelers from Gopeshwar district, to these blighted 15 High Himalayan villages during the first week of June, graphically recorded, after she was made to negotiate this daunting Rada-Meinsing patch: " Chacha Meinsing ( addressing the hypothetically the person after whom the patch has been named, thinking it to be some Nain Singh, which is not the case ) ) what made you traverse ( discover ) this patch, for God's sake ! ). herself coming from difficult parts of Kedar valley, it only validates that even in June this year the Munsyari-Milam road was in no fit condition for normal travelling. She was also complaining representing all those, men women and young children, who have been made to undergo the same torture and pain this year and all those who will also have to endure the same, in future. The road conditions have never been so bad, as they have been this year, there exists a general consensus. 


Worse Than June 2013 !

Leave aside Gita Bisht, as she was a first-time visitor to these High Himalayan villages almost every one who has gone up during the Summer migration has been complaining about not only the abysmally bad road conditions but about every thing that gets affected by a bad road-connectivity. Besides costing more, as resort to pack animals becomes almost mandatory, the disrupted food grains supply, medical and health assistance, services of education and health staff has been very seriously impaired. Extremely poor road condition, the main route via Rada Meinsig already mentioned, are rendered worst with the connection between the out-lying villages like Martoli, Laspa, Tola and Pachu etc, all receiving the worst end of the stick. The food-grains , even when stocked mid-way, at Bogdyar, become unusable with inter-road connectivity being disturbed. Near starvation conditions are fast approaching, as either the foodgrains supply department does not have the pack animals, or the pack animals are there , the roads become non-negotiable, both by men and pack animals ! With no live communication being in place every thing is left to just slanding-match between two departments ! The ultimate sufferers are the people, who have to go and keep daring to go year after year.


High Himalayan Researches

Millions get ritually spent in researching the weather, forecasting mechanisms, impact studies by the so called Research & Development Institutions, however, what does not get studied is , ( i ) the impact of a much milder summer, May-June, 2012, that did not melt the long snow-patches that fall on Munsyari-Milam road, ( ii ) incessant rains that enveloped our High Himalayan regions throughout June-July Monsoons, and relatively deficient Monsoon that has been predicated but is already in evidence in out higher reaches ! Resultantly how does road-making, road-repair works that get undertaken in May-June and get disrupted due to un-melt snowed layers, how this in turn impact on advance food-grains stocking in various locations like Bogdyar and Burfu, thus disrupting life-styles and livelihoods of High Himalayan populations, who have no other livelihood options, never get the attention that they deserve. 

Scientists have, however, reported a resultant ( possibly ? ) lower yield of Cordypus sinensis, the wonder larvae ( the fabled Keera ghas fetching fabulous returns per unit ! ), this year, which now draws hordes of labourers to the very same High Himalayan villages, bereft of basic amenities like safe and easy travel, basic foodgrains supply as this is just the beginning of the cropping season and they have to depend upon the government fr start up supplies, all poor populations, as they definitionally are . The logi remains, however, the same. A much milder summer, incessant rains through-out and a relatively deficient Monsoon, as rightly predicted.

While the science regime's curiosity about lesser yield of the fabulous "Keera ghas" stands examined, what does not attract attention is the abysmally poor conditions, critically deficient inter village roads and resultant failure of the entire local administration !

Is Administration Ready ?

That the over all conditions in the Malla Johar valley villages is far worse than these were in June 2013, which has become an all time standard of " Nadir of Unpreparedness" for any Hill State, of road condition and food and other basic amenities has been testified not only by the continous complainst that this writer has been receiving this year from almost all High Himalayan villages, also certified by stray visitors like Gita Bisht, but it is reliably lernet from even the ITPB sources, who should know. This writer is told that in a recent meeting held by the District Magistrate of Pithoragarh the ITBP representative said so and which should be taken by the local and the state administration with the seriousness that it deserved, the same has also been confirmed by an official of the state PWD, who will remained un-named, for obvious reasons.


Alarm Bells Are Audible !

As this writer concludes his piece it is reported that at least 25 sheep have perished last week between the difficult road linking Laspa with Martoli, the bridge above Gori near his ancestral village Tola, can be swept any time by the over-flowing Gori river and near scarcity conditions dog several villages like Laspa, Martoli, Pachu, Rhalam where the bridle roads are almost non-existant, or have not been repaired by the PWD this year. As every year a larger number of villagers move up, in search of the lucrative collection of Cordypus sinensis ( Keera ghas ) the pressure on villages to provide food-grains has increased, aggravating the food-grains availability. It needs to be remembered that during the devastating June 2013 floods, while the Mandakini washed away thousands of pilgrims on the fateful wee-morning hours of 15/16 June, vast areas in Kumaon also experienced very adverse weather and while a few lives were lost, the ruminants perished in very large numbers, as this is also the time for the graziers to go up the Himalayan meadows, every year. If the milder Summer have conspired with incessant and early rains and the late Monsoons have delayed rains, that are usual, this major change in climate in our High Himalayan villages are nothing but Alarms bells that need to be heeded to for immediate search and rescue machinery and the non-existant Union and State government functionaries need to take pro-active action, lest they are caught napping, the second time over ! 



Given the over-all story of utter neglect, that Gita Bisht experienced during the first week of June this year, it would be best to conclude with her parting remarks. In her words, " Totally deprived from the fruits of development, deficient in all kinds of communication facilities, if the youth of this region becomes a rebel, a disbeliever, it would be very difficult to blame him for such an act. Government must attend to the crying needs of this region."

R S Tolia

Late Dr. R.S. Tolia, Ph.D., was former Chief Secretary ( 2003-05 ) and Chief Information Commissioner ( 2005-10) of Uttarakhand. He also served in various voluntary positions after retirement and devoted his time for Mountain Development Agenda.

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