A Village in Himachal Pradesh State Will No Longer be ‘Remote’

State Assembly Passes Resolution to Build a Road to Badhhu Village After StoriesAsia’s Report

Hope has sprung in a dim and distant village called Badhhu in Mandi district of the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. After the death of a mother of three and my coverage in StoriesAsia of how the inaccessibility of this village was responsible for the fatal accident, the state government has finally pledged to finish the construction of a bridge and build a road to this community of mostly Dalit people.

There is no motorable road to this village. So it takes more than three hours to reach the nearest hospital, which is otherwise just 40 kilometres away. A local bus, which stops 10 kilometres from this village, is the only mode of transportation.

Rakesh Jamwal, a member of legislative assembly from Sundar Nagar town, moved a calling-attention resolution in the Himachal Pradesh assembly in mid-September to ensure that all villages in the Dhanyara panchayat, where Badhhu is situated, are connected.

Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Jai Ram Thakur allegedly said in the assembly that he would personally oversee the completion of the bridge over the Neri stream, which remains under construction for years.

“We will have bhoomi-poojan (a ceremony) for the bridge in the next 15 days. The bridge is already 70-percent complete. For the rest of the construction, a special team of engineers have been invited from Uttar Pradesh state. The bridge should be functional within three months,” Jamwal told me.

Regarding the roads, he said, “We have already received clearance from the forest department for a single-lane road. However, for a double-lane road, forest clearance is expected soon. The budget has also been approved for the road from Neri to Karla. I expect that the construction of the road will be complete within a year.”

Jamwal added, “Earlier, this was just a local issue of Mandi district, but after your (StoriesAsia’s) coverage, it has now become an issue of the state of Himachal Pradesh. It has brought the attention of the chief minister to the problems faced by the villagers. He has assured that he will personally monitor it.”

I travelled to Badhhu in early September to interview the family of a woman who had died in August. 

There was a trek of 10 kilometres from Karla, the closest un-metalled road, to Badhhu on foot. The road to the village was quite literally the road less taken. On that road, I felt a sense of loneliness. Maybe because it was a rainy September morning, maybe because I didn’t encounter a single soul on those rugged roads which were filled with potholes, steep turns and the impending doom of landslides. It took me more than six hours but I reached Badhhu.

As I had written, on Aug. 24, 27-year-old Poonam Devi was returning home with her 10-month-old son Dinesh who had been sick for a couple of days.

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On that unfortunate day, Poonam and four other women were walking back home from the hospital. With the infant in her arms, Poonam was feeling the fatigue of trekking a rather steep ridge for about 10 kilometres. The women decided to stop for a second to drink some water from a narrow stream of water flowing along the path to the village. Poonam handed her baby over to a friend while she sat down to get some water. Out of nowhere, a rock fell and dragged her down the ridge. One of the ladies managed to grab Poonam’s hand in time but struggled to pull her up. When they screamed for help, a passer-by rushed and helped them pull her up.

Poonam was injured in the back and was bleeding profusely. They decided to go to a nearby community health centre.

It took them at least 30 minutes to build a makeshift stretcher out of bedsheets and curtains, and another hour to reach the main road which was just two kilometres away. Four hours later, when they arrived at the health centre, the doctors declared Poonam dead. They said it was because of excessive blood loss.

But her husband Karamchand said she died because there was no road. I hope his wife is the last victim of remoteness and isolation.

StoriesAsia, a collective of independent journalists from 16 South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, seeks to replace the present-day parade of faceless numbers with humanising narrative nonfiction – a largely ignored journalistic genre in the region.

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