Seeta Papola | Jhopara | Bageshwar, Uttarakhand | Uttarakhand welcomes thousands of tourists every year. Travelers from across the states make efforts to reach this hilly region nestled in the mighty Himalayan range. The natural beauty of this state often masks the challenges its inhabitants face in their daily life – what appears to be quintessential rural life to these travelers, is in reality a suffering for people residing in far-flung mountain regions.
Uttarakhand’s Bageshwar district is one such example where communities residing in its remote villages have to face a plethora of ordeals every day. One of the major challenges is that of road connectivity in villages specially the ones tucked away in the remotest mountainous areas. Jhapora and Shama village in Kapkot block of Bageshwar district have been living a life full of difficulties for several decades now. There is no road that connects these two villages with the rest of the world. This lack of road connectivity has led to emergence of several other development challenges making life further difficult for its residence.
Lack of proper healthcare, education infrastructure and employment opportunities here has forced the residents to think if they are equal citizens of this country. Believing that their voices are going to get lost in the massive mountain ranges, they have accepted this life as their fate.
Jhopara is approximately 40 kms from Bageshwar. Sending children to higher, good quality schools and colleges, which are in Bageshwar becomes an expensive affair for the families. They end up enrolling them in village schools that too are located at a considerable distance with no transport facilities. Children have to walk two to three hours to reach their school. “Since there is no proper road, we walk through the exhausting trails every day to make sure we are not left behind in pursuing school. Construction of a road will bring transportation facilities cutting down on our time,” informed Prema, a student from the village.
The teachers, on the other hand, have their own sets of challenges. To reach their school situated in a hilly area is a task they have to face every day. During extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain or snowfall, there is always a chance of slipping on these hilly trails. As a result, both students and teachers avoid attending schools. One can only imagine the quality of education in schools in hilly region where there is no one to watch the actions of both students and teachers.
Lack of roads is one of the immediate issues that needs government’s immediate attention. As per a report published in The Firstpost, government data says that “34,000 kilometers of road has been laid in Uttarakhand over the past 18 years, but only 24,000 kilometres is black-topped, that is concretized. In the rest, work hasn’t progressed after the initial hillside cutting.”
Another critical development challenge for the residents of Jhopara is lack of quality healthcare services. There have been several incidences where patients lost their lives while on their way to the nearest functional health centre located 45 kms from this village. For childbirth, families often choose home deliveries due to lack of motorable roads which can be threatening to both mother and the unborn child. “Doctors often advise pregnant women to get an ultrasound done every three months, but do you think it’s a possibility here?” laments Prema’s mother, Rumna Devi.
A little ahead lies Shama village which is 25 kilometers from Jhopara. The residents here are similarly stuck in the loophole of underdevelopment. “We can connect with the world outside only by trekking through the mountains. During winter and monsoon season, we get completely disconnected from the town as trekking through the mountains gets tricky and risky. People who have their jobs in Bageshwar tend to skip their workdays during extreme weather conditions. Their meagre incomes are further impacted by such challenges. People from outside cannot come to the village and those in the village cannot leave. There is only one way to the village and that too is through the mountains,” lamented Radha Devi, a teenager from Shama village.
Many migrate looking for a better lifestyle but the most underprivileged and marginalized section of the community are left behind to live within these struggles. Decreasing population in the villages, means intensive growth of population in urban and semi urban areas, which may result in inability of the local government to provide services for all people. Hence, strategic actions should be taken by all the concerned departments to suffice the development needs of the people in every region be it rural or urban to avoid the increasing demographic imbalances.
The article was first published in Counter Currents.
The writer is a student of class 11 and a resident of Jhopara, Kapkot block in Bageshwar district. Share your feedback on email@example.com