Harka Bahadur Chettri, 52, pays Rs. 100-120 for a kilo of salt at Vijaynagar, India’s remotest circle headquarters adjoining Myanmar, in Changlang district of south-eastern Arunachal Pradesh.
Ankhumaduye Yobin, 77, who isn’t as ‘affluent’, raises chickens to barter a full-grown one for her kilo of salt.
They have a choice though — trek for seven days to sub-divisional headquarters Miao.
Salt isn’t as rare a commodity for Sena Miji, 24, of Lada village near the border with China. But like 150 other villagers, he has to walk 55km to the nearest public health centre at Bameng town.
But relief was in sight when rural development minister Jairam Ramesh laid the foundation stone for the 157km Miao-Vijaynagar road — the longest under the Prime Minister’s Grameen Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) — and the 55km Bameng-Lada road.
The roads estimated to cost R225crore within a five-year timeframe have ostensibly been sanctioned to let the likes of Chettri buy salt cheap and Miji to have faster access to healthcare. But locals believe it has partly to do with China’s push for infrastructure development and connectivity right up to the border with India.
Ramesh played down the China factor, saying, “Last week, the cabinet approved tweaking PMGSY norms for Arunachal Pradesh to help 600 habitations on the border with China get roads.”
The Miao-Vijaynagar road has also been hanging fire for environmental reasons.