Heavy snow in winter usually increases hardships, but this time it's sure to bring a smile on the faces of the inhabitants of the tribal areas in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
Instead of deploying heavy machines and private and government labourers, the district administration will employ villagers in Kinnaur for clearing snow from paths and roads under the UPA's flagship scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA).
In the wake of heavy snow, development projects come to a halt, leaving people jobless for months together. Keeping this in mind, the district administration of Kinnaur had written to the state government, asking if the job of clearing snow could be carried out under MNREGA. To this, the rural development department said since the roads' construction and clearing of debris came under essential activity, clearing the snow from roads could be undertaken under the scheme. "The rural development department has accorded its consent to allot snow-clearance works under MNREGA," said Kinnaur deputy commissioner JM Pathania.
Government decision would help generate employment and restorate roads, he added.
MNREGA job card-holders are available in every gram panchayat, so it would automatically reduce labour woes that the villages face in winter. "Besides , migrant labourers from Nepal and outside the state move out in winter months," he said. There are nearly 15, 600 MNREGA job card-holders in the tribal Kinnaur district. "This is the first time that the administration would involve MNREGA labourers to remove snow from roads," Pathania said.
There are 260 villages in Kinnaur comprising 65 gram panchayats. In other years, the snow clearance was usually allotted to the public works department (PWD). The main roads connecting the forward posts close to China border are maintained by the Border Roads Organisation. While Kinnaur will be using MNREGA for snow clearance, no such step has been taken in the neighbouring tribal district of Lahual and Spiti, and the PWD will be carrying out the job there. "We will have to rely on PWD as there are only 5,000 job card-holders in the entire district," Lahaul and Spiti deputy commissioner Bir Singh Thakur said over the phone from Keylong.
Snowfall in Kinnaur
During winter, the tribal, high-altitude district of Kinnaur is usually under a thick cover of snow. Here are the snowfall figures for recent years
Dec 11.8 cm
Jan 17.2 cm
Feb 102 cm
March 7.5 cm
April 2.4 cm
Dec 8.8 cm
Jan 6.4 cm
Feb 0 cm
March 73.4 cm
April 22 cm