Saving A Heritage Border – Village
Readers looking at the visual accompanying this piece might take it for a village which has suffered what is called carpet-bombing. But, no this village was once a thriving border-village at a height of 11,200 feet, the last village of Munsyari tehsil, as also India. This village is the Last Village of Indo-China border and used to be onece the biggest village in British India, with more than 500 families with 5,000 population ! In independent India, it has suffered the following visitations, other than private thefts and attacks of Mother Nature, which is equally severe :
( i ) Impact of the cessation of once thriving Indo -Tibetan trade, reduction after the Communist take-over of Chine in 1949, of Lhasa and Tibet in 1959 and final closure after the 1962 Indo-China War,
( ii ) Economic devastation of the 10,000 plus Johari Saukas who lost their major source of livelihood of trans-Himalayan trade, goods of trade left at the Gyanima and other mandies ( marts ) in Tibet due to sudden closure of the trade, no previous warning or advise by the then Indian Trade Agent or the Indian Consular services in Tibet, or any Government of India department/agency; no help for recovery of goods left in Tibet due to this sudden stoppage of trade and no so called compensation for such political calamity, who lived in this village and other 14 revenue villages in Malla Johar,
( iii ) Unilateral application, without any notice, of Zamindari Abolition Act provisions, that took away from this politically stricken ex-traders, suffering huge economic strife, whatever little land they had in Tall Desh or Goriphat regions, of Munsyari tehsils, thus striking a double blow of cessation of trade in 1959 to 1963/64, for almost 6 years,a nd finally giving them the ST staus for which they were least prepared, benefit for which could not flow before early 1970. as a politico-economic, compensation;
( iv ) Demolition and stealing of huge stone and wood of which these houses of Milam were built by the then Special Police Force ( SPF ), which took away private lands of Milam villagers, without their permission and /or compensations,
( v ) Continuation of pucca houses damage a despoliation by the successor Indo-Tibetan Border Police ( ITBP ), which continues to be stationed there and continue to illegally occupy private lands and houses of villagers, who are now declared Scheduled Tribes ( STs ) , thus openly violating the laws strictly prohibiting alienation of ST lands;
( vi ) Further, destruction of several pucca houses by the construction-workers of the Border Roads Organisation ( BRO ), who have removed remaining wood and big stones, from several of these houses, removing solid roofs etc, thus reducing several houses into just rubbles ( as could be seen );
( vii ) Latest encroachment on privately, and more over Scheduled Tribes held lands, for extension of heli-copter landing site, being built close to the village boundary, on private ST land, without any permission, which any case can not be given, as it belongs to several share-holders who are all STs; again this is being built close to the village which is bound to destroy other remaining houses that still have roofs over them ,and are presently used by migrants who go there in summer months for cultivation and herding their sheep and goats; and
( viii ) The poor ST villagers and their Pradhan is allegedly being threatened with acquisition proceedings almost daily.
Intervention of Chief Minister Harish Rawat sought
It is quite ironical that while on one hand several programmes like the Border Area Development Programme ( BADP ) were commenced decades ago instead of rehabilitating the border villagers like this one there are cases where the money in the past has been spent in making boundary walls of Tehsildar's residence, conducting training programmes of various kinds, while villages like the one being shown turned from bad to worse, forcing the migrant villagers to go into deep pecuniary plight and economically stressful condition.
It is also ironical that while a road by BRO itself is being constructed for the last couple of years to connect villages like Milam with the mainland so that these villages can be rehabilitated action like land acquisition, near villages, for extending heli-pads are being taken, forcing local people to go to economic plight.
Chief Minister Harish Rawat is requested to immediately intervene and stay all actions for taking any land of Mila m and other border villages for Heli-pad or any other purposes.
It is well known that north of Milam and in the adjoining land, next to the village itself. joint land exists that should be considered for negotiated purchase or exchange with equally non ZA land for the village, as Milam village is proposed to be rehabilitated by the local people as son as the village is connected by a National Highway, a top most strategic priority.
Further, the next few years BADP and some additional resources should be earmarked as a MILAM and BORDER LAND PACKAGE encouraing border villagers to re-construct, rehabilitate their torn-down and delapidated houses.
UNDER NO CONDITIONS ANY PRIVATE ST LAND MUST BE PURCHASED OR TAKEN FOR ANY PUBLIC PURPOSES. IF ANY LAND IS TO BE TAKEN IT MUST BE AS FAR AWAY FROM THE VILLGAE ABADI AS POSSIBLE.
As the road connect is imminent, if the BRO are to be believed, even the existing ITBP and ARMY UNIT should be advised to vacate all private and ST lands belonging to the villages, as there exists sufficient land to the north of Milam villages, AS FAR AS EYES CAN SEE !
Learn from Neighbours !
Chief Minister Harish Rawat should also depute the Commissioner Kumaon and Deputy Commissioner Pithoragarh along with the Urban Development Secretary to quickly visit the neighbouring Taklakot township which might give them some good lesson and motivation how to respect our borderland villagers and encourage them with the best of facilities that this nation can afford. I propose to send a latest visual of Taklakot, that has been made available by a recent visitor to Taklakot that will be nothing short of a shockers to our innocent officers and might prove motivating !
This writer went to Taklakot in 1993 as soon as the border trade was resumed and was witness to what Taklakot used to be like. My head hangs in shame when I even think of what time we have lost in building the confidence of our border people !