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HindustanTimes Wed,27 Aug 2014

Elections a stranger to Malana

Sachin Sharma, Hindustan Times  Malana (Kullu), November 01, 2012
First Published: 20:07 IST(1/11/2012) | Last Updated: 20:09 IST(1/11/2012)

Said to be the world's oldest democracy, Malana, a non-descript village in Kullu assembly constituency, is not abuzz with the political campaigning seen in other parts of Kullu in 2012.

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The campaigning bug has not bit the residents, who are more worried about the winters than excited about the upcoming assembly elections. Residents say they have their reasons.

A devastating fire in January 2008 had left 150 families of the village, famous for its cannabis cultivation, homeless.

With winters approaching early in 2012, the villagers will have to work overtime to survive the toughest season of the year. But their problems don't end here.

The village, which produces the world famous 'Malana Cream' variety of cannabis (locally called charas), is facing an epidemic of drug addiction.

Once a cash crop and consumed for recreational purposes, youngsters are now obsessed with the drug.

As for the upcoming assembly elections, not a single political party has visited the village. There are posters of different candidates, but campaigning is non-existent.

Malana native, Krishna Dass, says basic amenities are still a stranger to the village located on a hilltop. "We have problems in disposal of garbage and lack of sewerage," says Dass.

Accessibility to the village is still a major issue. There is a dilapidated road that leads to a village on the other bank of the Malana river.

But from there one has to trek for one-and-a-half hours to reach the village.

But, as Dass says, "the village has limited demands. After winning the assembly polls, the incumbent MLA had assured us of a ropeway to ferry people. But nothing has come up."

In December, the entire village will be face-to-face with its biggest challenge: temperatures will drop below the freezing point and the village will face power outages lasting as long as 20 days in a stretch.

"Leave aside electricity, at least the government, if it really wants to help, should make some arrangement for drinking water. We still depend on natural water sources as the taps set up by the government only work once or twice a week. In winters, when snow engulfs the entire village, that water freezes, too," says Moti Lal, another Malana villager.

The impact of the devastating fire on the village could be seen easily from the under-construction wooden houses.

"The fire had gutted many houses. The compensation residents got was insufficient. Reconstruction of about 50% of the affected houses is yet to be completed. Non-availability of wood is a reason behind this," says Bhagirath, another resident of the village.

Though the cannabis trade has helped change the fortunes of many in the village, the younger generation is paying the price. Elders of the village say they are worried over its growing menace.

Shukru Ram, the head priest of Rishi Jagdamani temple, says cannabis consumption, though not a taboo was affecting the youngsters of the village.

"It was more of cash crop for us. We used to consume cannabis but not to the extent that the youths use it now."

Ram's own family has borne the brunt of the overuse of charas.

"Two of my nephews lost their mental balance because they used to smoke it a lot," he says, adding that the government should come up with an alternative to cannabis.

"It is a monster. We need to get rid of it," he says.

Most of the village is illiterate.

"There are primary and government high schools in the village. But villagers are not interested in providing higher education to children. Very rarely does a student pass Class 10," says Purshottam Sharma, a trained graduate teacher in one of the schools in which five of the total 10 teachers' posts are still lying vacant.


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