An entire hamlet near in Kangra is eerily emptying out day by day due to a rabies scare. Villagers say they cannot take any chances as two dozen farm animals have died and no medical assistance has reached them in 10 days.
Bara Bhangal, which has the state's remotest polling station, is located in Kangra district at an altitude over 2,800 metres and is not accessible by road. While officials are yet to confirm if the disease is spreading there, the village of 400 people is running scared and migrating despite snow-laden pathways.
"More than 12 cattle and an equal number of sheep have died due to rabies. A large number of animals have symptoms of the disease. Despite repeated requests to the administration, no veterinarian team has been deputed to the village so far," said Kanchana Devi, head of the gram panchayat of the village.
She along with other villagers have migrated to Bir in Baijnath subdistrict, near Palampur town, some 250 km from state capital Shimla.
"After trudging more than 75 km, we managed to reach Bir in three days. Most of the areas are under a thick blanket of snow (following heavy snowfall)," she said.
According to her, four people who are still stuck in the village have reported symptoms of the disease.
Sheep and cattle rearing is the main occupation of the people who are nomads.
Akshay Jasrotia, a member of the Kangra Zila Parishad, who is taking up their cause with the administration, said the situation is quite grim.
"Since the satellite telephone installed in the village is not working, it's difficult to get the exact information. The people who have migrated say the situation is quite grim there.
"We are requesting the government to airlift a team of veterinarians and doctors to the village to treat both animals and humans," he said.
He said since most trekking routes leading to Bara Bhangal are out of bounds due to snow, the helicopter is the only mode of transportation to reach there. Bara Bhangal is also accessible through the Thamsar Pass, located at an attitude of 4,700 metres.
Kangra Additional District Magistrate Sandeep Kumar told IANS that a team of doctors was sent to the village last week, but it returned mid-way due to harsh climatic conditions.
"A second team was sent from another route in Chamba district two days ago. But so far we have not been able to establish contact with them. If the team again fails to reach, then we will arrange a helicopter for them," he said.
On the spread of rabies, he said: "From initial reports, it seems that animals had died due to rabies. However, there is no official confirmation regarding the spread of the disease in humans.
"So far 80 people have migrated to Bir. But this is their annual practice. We have vaccinated both the humans and the livestock. We have not noticed any symptoms of rabies," he said.
Bara Bhangal is part of the Dhauladhar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is spread over 944 sq km at an altitude above 3,000 metres.