My village deserve a road: Story of a small village and an ignorant Government & society
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My name is Dr. Vineet Mehta and I will be sharing with you a story of a very small village, Shilazan, located in the Kumarsain Tehsil (PO Jarol) in the Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh. It is located at an altitude of approximately 2700 m and is covered with snow for 3-4 months a year. It is a very beautiful village providing mesmerizing natural beauty. This village is inhibited by a small population of farmers who thrives on agriculture and it is well known to produce some excellent quality of crispy & juicy apples.
This village was established about 80 year ago by our grandparents who transformed this barren land into Apple orchards by giving it their sweat and blood. With time, many other people migrated to this place and we welcomed each and every one of them with open arms. I am the proud third generation residing in this village and the first generation to see the doors of the College.
Although our parents and grandparents were not much educated but they had a very strong vision and know what is crucial for the betterment of their next generations to come. One such vision was the necessity of a road which can connect this tiny village to the mainland full of immense opportunities. They knew that road is the lifeline of this village. They faced tough time and had carried every single thing, may it be food, medicines, construction material, harvested apples, patients, dead bodies etc., on their back to-and-from this village. They did not get basic medical facilities and were deprived of education due to the unavailability of road. Then comes the time when our generation was born, and they said “ENOUGH”. For the education and health of their next generation, they decided that they will ask Govt. for the road, which Govt. ignored till late 90’s. Then come the era of one of the greatest PM of India, Atal ji, who came into power and Govt. agreed to our request but on one condition. They said that villagers must bear 30% cost of the road construction and rest will be taken care by the Govt. Although this was a very huge burden on the Villagers, but they happily accepted for the good future of their next generation.
Road to my village was supposed to get connected to main road through Tanajubbar and was supposed to be approximately 5 km in length (Shilazan-Tanajubbar road). It was in 1998-99 when finally, the JCB machine reached our Village through a dense forest and we became the first village in the entire region who took initiative and get it done. We thought its done now, this will now be taken over by PWD and in coming year we will have a road to our village and we will lead a better life. But we were wrong. This never happened. You must ask Why? Some must ask if you faced so much then why even today do not have the road? Some will ask what made me write this petition?
Today, after about 20 years, the condition on this road is same as it was left by JCB on day one, or even worse. As soon as the road reached our Village, those people who migrated from outside (they do not live here permanently but comes for apple harvesting only) blocked the road saying that it passes through their private land and they will not allow it to go under PWD. If you want, then you must pay us money. Worst part was that the land they claim to be theirs was the Govt. land they have illegally occupied by chopping off Deodar trees. We complained to Govt., but no action was taken. We complained to forest department, but no action was taken. No door was left unknocked, no stone was left unturned, but no one listened to us, probably because Atal ji was no longer in power. Many politicians came to visit, gave assurance but did nothing. Still we did not give up, we tried to talk it out. We paid them money thrice to allow road to pass, thinking that finally we will have our life line. Every time they took money and returned to ignorant nature. Due to this, we still do not have a road. Reason is an ignorant society who thrives on the suffering of others and ignorant Govt. officials who do not care at all.
Let me tell you what major problems we face. For schooling, not only we, but also our kids also, wake up at 6 am. Get ready by 7:30 or 8 am. Walk downhill 8-10 km to reach school. Get relieved from school at 3:30 pm, walk up-hill 8-10 km and reach home around 7 pm. This is our daily routine that too through a dense forest full of bear, leopards and other wild animals. Most difficult situations arise during rainy seasons and winters when paths become flooded, mudded and covered with snow. During this time, we must skip school even.
Everything is carried to our village on our back. May it be food, medicines, construction material, etc., everything basically, which markedly increase the cost. We harvest apples in the month of September. It became very difficult to make our crop reach market for selling. Halfway we carry it on our back and halfway few drivers who risk their life come to take them, but at huge cost.
Medical facilities can’t reach us. We even lost a life recently because we were not able to make it to hospital on time. Had road been there, he could have been saved. Personally, these days my father, who is an Ex-army personal, is struggling with end-stage cancer. He has very less time to live. He is in hospital. It is his last wish that he wants to leave this world from his home, from his village. But there is no way he can make it to the village. We are helpless, and I am full of guilt that I am not able to fulfill his last wish either. It is very disheartening to face such situation. He gave his entire life to serve this country, but this country may not fulfil his last will even.
Some may ask what have you done for this problem? As mentioned above, we did our best to get help from Govt. and even paid money to those “ignorant” people. Every year we contribute some money from our pocket for the maintenance of this road. We deploy workers on our own expense and try our best to keep this road alive and in working condition (although “kaam-chalau”), which by the way is huge expense. Our heart sank when we see those people because of whom we are facing so much, use this road for their advantage. But we can’t do anything. Govt. launched many online schemes, like e-samadhan, public grievances redressal portal, etc., where they claim to address public grievances. We have filed multiple grievances there also. But nothing done. I believe such scheme are wastage of public money. They will do nothing and will take up only those complaints I which they will have to put minimum efforts. It is just to show public that they are doing something.
Despite such hardship we have achieved a lot. This tiny village have produced three doctors so far, all the youth is well educated, away from drugs, alcohols, smoking and most of them who failed to get good education are still earning well. Many of us have shifted our kids to hostels so that they do not have to face what we faced. Many of us have migrated to cities to give better life to their kids. This is really bad feeling when we have to force our children to stay away from their mothers. Village is now having only older generation who permanently reside there. It is well known fact that older generation need medical care, but they are deprived of that too. We are basically helpless.
Now what I want from you is to become our voice. I want you to help me fulfill last wish of my father. I want you to take such a strong initiative so that this ignorant society who thrives on the suffering of other learns a lesson. I want you all to set up an example for generations to come. I want you to become our voice and shout out so loudly that sleeping Govt. and its officials has to wake up from their sleep. I want you to help us to make our village habitable again. I want you to become our voice.
PLEASE HELP US.
Thank you all.
Dr. Vineet Mehta
Village Shilazan, PO Jarol, Kumarsain, Dist Shimla, Hiamchal Pradesh 172031
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